Mandatory Yacht Mooring Fee Introduced

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Every year the SBWEMR receives a vast quantity of visiting yachts, primarily between the months of November and May, and peaking around March, when we must accommodate for over 25 yachts each day. Opinion of these cruisers varies greatly between locals, with many regarding them as suspected poachers who do little to contribute to the welfare of the island. While there may be a very small percentage of yacht owners who do spearfish and collect conch and lobster, a huge proportion of them are very eco-conscious and respect regulations. While staying on the island, cruisers do provide a certain amount to the economy through the purchase of fuel, provisions, and eating and drinking at bars and restaurants.

On May 1st 2010, with backing from the Municipality, a mandatory mooring fee of $10 a day, $40 a week and $100 a month was introduced. Before the fee could be introduced with funding from Project AWARE, older moorings were renovated and additional ones were installed to accommodate 20 visiting vessels. To supervise the visiting yachts, a part time Park Ranger has been employed to monitor the vessels and to ensure that they pay and abide by the regulations. An additional benefit of employing the Ranger is so he can monitor the mooring field and Blue Channel, which are hotspots for poachers, with vast numbers of conch inhabiting the seagrass.

After much discussion with the West End Patronato and the Municipality, the RMP agreed to donate 50% of the monthly net income to the Patronato from the moorings, once Park Ranger salary, fuel charges and mooring maintenance costs have been deducted. By using money generated from the Mooring Fee, funds can be used to develop community focused projects, this way ensuring that visiting yachts are giving back to the community. We estimate, depending on the number of yachts and the length of their stays within the Park that anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 a year will be generated through the introduction of this fee. Hopefully with this money, West End will benefit through the installation of new trash bins, renovation of the school or any other useful projects chosen by the Patronato.

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.”