TIME: Taming the Lionfish

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Taming the Lionfish:

Can Predators Be Trained to Control an Invasive Species?

By Christy Choi – May 10 2011 – TIME Magazine

In March, on a small reef off the coast of Honduras, a group of pioneering conservationists started teaching sharks how to hunt. A half-dead lionfish, speared earlier by a diver, was released into the midst of a swirling mass of grey reef sharks. Sensing the lionfish’s final twitches, the sharks descended on the weakened prey. Unsuspectingly, a second lionfish wandered into the frenzy. Within seconds, it, too, was gone. All that remained was a trail of mush emanating from a shark’s toothy maw.

Floating in the nearby blue, photographer Antonio Busiello was there to capture the moment he and members of the Roatan Marine Park, a grassroots community organization in Honduras, had spent three months waiting for. “We weren’t sure the sharks would hunt on their own,” Busiello recalls from his studio in Los Angeles. Although not yet common behavior, the reef sharks’ voluntary hunt brings hope of a new way of battling the long-problematic proliferation of lionfish in the region. The aquarium pet turned invader, with it’s voracious appetite, prolific breeding and territorial nature, has locals and scientists up and down the Caribbean and Northern Atlantic worried about the threat it could pose to coastal ecosystems and economies by wiping out the stocks of small fish in an already stressed ecosystem.

Read more at: 
http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2070599,00.html#ixzz1MMPLz8WQ


The problems with run-off

Friday, March 11th, 2011

With all the rain and the ensuing run-off these past few months, the RMP received many questions about the effects of sedimentation on the reef. The earliest coral reef researchers recognized that coral growth was strongly inhibited wherever muddy freshwater enters the sea. Negative impacts of rivers include the introduction of freshwater and sediments such as mud, silt, and clay. While freshwater can cause bleaching, excessive sediment smothers and kills coral. Corals differ greatly in their ability to resist sedimentation, however most species are highly intolerant of even small amounts.

Unfortunately for the coral of Roatan, increases in development often worsen sedimentation. One of the main culprits is coastal dredging, like that which has occurred in Mahogany Bay and French Cay. Dredging generates huge muddy plumes which smother reefs in areas that previously had clear water. These plumes continue to cause damage long after the dredging has ceased as the mud is re-stirred by every storm, causing clouds of sediment to slowly work their way down coastlines, damaging reefs many times more before they are washed away.

The other main cause of sedimentation is soil erosion caused by increased deforestation and development. Depending on rainfall, topography, soil types, and land management, deforestation and development can result in up to thousand-fold increases in sedimentation in near shore waters. As a result sedimentation is taking a severe toll on almost all coastal reefs worldwide. In healthy coastal watersheds, sediments are naturally removed from fresh water before it enters the sea. Plants such as grass, trees, and mangroves act as buffers between the land and the sea by trapping sediment. If the natural buffer zones are damaged, sediment runs straight out onto the reef.

Roatan’s soil is composed mainly of red clay, which is easily soluble. After a heavy rain, it’s easy to see the threat to the reef as huge muddy plumes of water fill our lagoons. Our island’s reefs are under great threat of sedimentation. Unregulated deforestation and development, illegal road building (especially during rainy season), and the rampant destruction of huge swathes of mangroves, the list of threats is endless. Only through more conscientious development will Roatan’s reefs have a fighting chance.


Making a difference

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

We humans generate  pounds of waste every day, creating a tremendous impact on the planet’s health. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Making a difference is not about being a big hero, it is simply about leaving the bathroom a little cleaner going out, than when you came in?” There are many small things that we can do to support the cause of having a healthy Mother Earth.

You can start by replacing light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs. This is a great idea, considering they last much longer and will save you money on your electricity bill and protect the environment. What about taking shorter showers? Two or three minutes less saves 9-12 gallons of water. If you have noticed leaky faucets and pipes at home, fix them as soon as possible. A dripping tap can waste up to 2,000 gallons of water each year! Also, drive less: walk, ride a bike, or plunge in and swim to work. You’ll exercise and save money.

Always remember to dispose of trash properly: most trash eventually finds its way to the oceans. A simple piece of bubble gum takes 60 years to degrade and cigarette butts, like most human-made trash, are not biodegradable. Pick up trash when you see it, whether in the street, on the beach, in the sea, or anywhere else. Get a re-usable bag to go shopping and have your own water bottle to avoid buying water in disposable plastic bottles. 

You can also become a volunteer of the Marine Park and do your part in supporting Roatán’s conservation efforts!


Cozumel in Roatan’s Future

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Cozumel is Mexico’s largest island, nestled just 12 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, measuring in at 28 miles long & only 10 miles wide. Cozumel itself was a sleepy little fishing community until 1961, when Jacques Cousteau declared the island one of the most beautiful scuba diving areas of the world. By 1970, Cozumel’s population had reached 10,000 and today the island boasts a population of more than 75,000. Over the years, the recreational scuba industry grew and Cozumel became a Mecca for divers with visitor numbers swelling annually. In recent years, the cruise ship industry has boomed, and with the island being the gateway to the Caribbean, ships now deliver an estimated 10,000 people daily to this once quiet island.

Once regarded as the jewel of Mexico for its pristine reefs, due to unregulated development and unsustainable practices, the reefs fringing the island have rapidly degraded and the island’s main tourist attraction has shifted from diving to golf. From a paradise to an environmentalist’s nightmare in a manner of a few decades, one must wonder, “Is Roatan on the road to a similar fate? “While those living on Roatan would never dream of comparing our island with Cozumel, the reality may be gradually emerging as more and more tourists visit the island. With direct international flights, the Bay Islands are no longer only accessible to backpackers but cruise-shippers, day trippers and jet-setters alike. With the building of additional docks to accommodate yet more cruise ships and the continuous sprouting up of new developments, this island paradise is rapidly reflecting Cozumel’s blunder. As the island evolves and the concrete is laid, how can we carelessly dismiss Roatan’s tropical splendor and magnificent reefs? It is time to truly demand that we “Keep Roatan Beautiful.”