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


Finning Sharks in Honduran Waters

Monday, April 26th, 2010

For a prosperous future, Honduras needs to solidify its identity as a leader in the global community of environmentally conscious countries that rely on long-term management plans for ecotourism. Protecting sharks as a flagship species of healthy reefs in Honduras is one way to win international approval and keep the tourists coming here.

Shark finning is an unsustainable method of commercial fishing, non-traditional, wasteful, and it is here in Honduras. The process involves cutting the fins from live sharks while at sea and dumping the living body overboard to drown. This wastes approximately 97% of each animal while preserving storage space on the boat to continue fishing for shark fins. Additionally, by-catch on the long lines set to catch sharks commonly results in 70% morbidity of everything caught, turtles, fish and sharks. The value of shark fins to the Asian market has exploded, due largely to the expansion of trade and growth of the Chinese economy and population.

Honduras is now joining countries like the USA, South Africa, Brazil, India and Costa Rica in taking the steps to protect coastal sharks from being killed for their fins. The Fisheries Department (DIGEPESCA) is addressing this threat to the marine legacy of the Honduran people as it now is working to pass a law banning the finning of targeted coastal species. Regarding the nurse and whale sharks, in 1999 Honduras led the way as one of the first countries to protect this species.

Of note, the new law addresses sharks commonly caught in the coastal plains, leaving reef sharks and hammerhead species vulnerable. With the growth of consciousness in the Bay Islands of the value of healthy reefs, fish populations and indeed sharks, to tourism, we can continue to work towards a marine management plan that ensures Hondurans a bright future as a destination for the environmentally conscious traveler.


Plastic Soup

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Although Honduran law states that all plastic brought to Roatan must be removed from the island, Roatan’s coast is awash with a toxic “plastic soup.” Plastic bags are used for an average of just 20 minutes before being dumped, and can take centuries to rot. Millions spread like urban tumbleweed through towns before ending up in the sea. Plastic waste in the oceans kills around 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals, turtles and other large animals each year. An estimated one million seabirds also die from strangulation, choking or starvation after eating seaborne plastic. Once an afflicted animal’s body has rotted, the bag is released back into the sea, to kill again and again.

The sheer volume of plastic in Roatan’s waters is appalling. It is an utter disgrace. People have often fought over fishing rights, claiming “ownership” over popular fishing grounds, but when it comes to protecting marine wildlife from plastic pollution, people’s sense of ownership and responsibility mysteriously fades. Isn’t it our responsibility to prevent these animals from becoming the victims of our careless, plastic bag culture? After all, there are perfectly adequate substitutes.

Pilot studies in the UK have successfully demonstrated that society CAN flourish without plastic bags. Major British supermarket chains have launched a “bags for life” policy. These are replaced free of charge by the store when they wear out and recycled. And it’s not just developed nations: In India people can now be jailed for seven years just for carrying a plastic bag.

Where major corporations have taken the initiative, it has encouraged millions of people to change their behavior. This initiative could easily be applied here too. It is absolutely vital that we urge all stores to act responsibly, possibly introducing a small charge for plastic bags. However, we as consumers must also change our attitude – bring our own bag! It is time to break the carrier bag habit. It’s not difficult, it’s not painful, but it IS responsible.


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.”


RMP in the News: A Real Drag

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

The Roatan Marine Park appeared in an article published in TheCrewReport.com entitled A Real Drag, Part II by Juliet Benning.

The article discusses the severe and irreperable damage caused by anchor damage, including a high-profile case that occured in the Roatan Marine Park in March 2009.

Download A Real Drag, Part II here [PDF, 840kB]


Welcome to the new Marine Park website!

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Welcome to the new official website of the Roatan Marine Park!

Completely redesigned from the ground up, the new website offers up-to-date information about the community outreach, education, and research efforts of the Roatan Marine Park. Find out how our patrols help reduce illegal poaching around the island. Learn about the laws and legislation protecting the incredible but fragile marine ecosystem surrounding our island. Take a look at the environmentally-friendly products available in our Eco Store, where all proceeds go to help protect Roatan’s reef.

That’s not all! Our new website makes it easier than ever for you to help the Roatan Marine Park achieve our goals. Now you can use our simple online forms to report problems with our moorings infrastructure and help us hunt down lionfish invading our reef. Donating to our cause has never been easier: just click the ‘Donate’ button on the upper left of any page to send a safe, secure donation of your choosing directly to us.

Want to learn more about our island? Explore over 170 of the dive sites surrounding the island using our custom-designed interactive map powered by Google Maps. You just might discover a your new favorite place to splash in!

Given that this website has just been launched, there may be a few bugs lingering around in the code. If you encounter any problems using this website, please send an email to the website administrator at steve@thescubageek.com.

We hope you enjoy the new official website of the Roatan Marine Park! Please contact us at info@roatanmarinepark.net and let us know what you think!