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.


Taking students on the glass bottom boat

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Every parent knows that having to go to school isn’t always their child’s favorite past time, however some days are different. These days may include outings to Carambola Gardens, Blue Harbor Plantation or the dolphin show at AKR, and we like to think a glass bottom boat trip with the Marine Park.

We have been working with the glass bottom boat in West Bay for over 4 years and since April 2010, have visited 8 schools and talked to 2,000 kids. From those, over 600 have been fortunate enough to see the wonders of Roatán’s reef first hand. When our staff or volunteers visit schools, we teach the students about the reefs, its inhabitants and their importance, as well as a host of environmental subjects. To reinforce the importance of the reef and the fact that they’re the guardians of this fragile ecosystem, we provide them with an intimate view of the coral, fish and other strange marine creatures. coral, fish, inhabitants

As they load onto the boat, the kids are excited about their adventure ahead. For some, this is the first time they’ll experience the wonders below the waves. Even though they live on an island, many can’t swim or have ever seen coral. Their first view is the vast expanse of seagrass inside the lagoon, and then as they near the channel, with faces pressed against the glass, the reef slowly materializes before their eyes. With every turtle, barracuda, eel, ray they see, their curiosity about the reef and its inhabitants grows. This could be the moment they realize how fortunate they are to live on Roatán.

 Each trip on the glass bottom boat is a new adventure and a memorable experience for the kids. We are very proud to provide this opportunity to Roatan’s youth and would like to say a huge thank you to Mario and John. If you are interested in the RMP visiting your school and taking your students on the glass bottom boat, please contact us at info@roatanmarinepark.net


Ten Reasons to save the coral reefs

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

  1. Coral reefs occupy less that 1% of the oceans but support 25% of all marine fish species. If coral reefs disappear, more than 1,000,000 aquatic species are threatened.
  2. One-sixth of the world’s people depend on coral reefs for food, coastal protection, livelihood, and tourism income.  More than $350 billion in annual global income is at stake if the reefs are destroyed.
  3. As breeding grounds for many fish and other species, coral reefs provide habitat for the world’s commercial and subsistence fishing industries, and are a major protein source for more than 1 billion people.
  4. Coral reefs are natural wave barriers protecting coastal settlements from loss of life, erosion, floods, and damage from storms and tsunamis.  As reefs degrade and climates change, our coastal populations become more vulnerable.
  5. More biologically diverse than rainforests, coral reefs are important sources of new medicines being developed to treat cancer, heart diseases, arthritis, human bacterial infections and viruses.
  6. Coral reefs are like living museums that reflect thousands of years of ocean history. Having lost more than 25% of the world’s reefs, if we don’t act now, we may lose 50% by 2030.
  7. Eco-tourism to tropical locations is one of the fastest growing sectors of the travel industry, involving millions of tourists every year, providing essential income to some of the world’s poorest nations.
  8. Corals play an important role in absorbing carbon dioxide in the oceans and transforming it to create limestone skeletons that build reefs. Without corals, the amount of carbon dioxide in the water would rise even more dramatically.
  9. Sustainable tourism initiatives supported by well-managed MPAs and healthy coral reefs create income to fund community development projects including tuition and scholarships for children, improved healthcare services, and recreational opportunities.
  10. Coral reefs are some of the oldest and most diverse ecosystems on the planet and are integral to our heritage, as well as to the cultural and spiritual traditions of many communities.