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.

Protecting the iguana

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

In 2004, the Roatan spiny-tailed iguana, Ctenosaura oedirhina, was listed as Critically Endangered under the IUCN Red List. In March 2010, C. oedirhina, along with 12 other iguana species native to Central America were included in the CITES Appendix II listing due to their recent appearance in the international pet trade. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments whose aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Species assigned to the Appendix I are those threatened with extinction, and trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Those listed in Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled. 

Currently there is a lack of information about the spiny-tailed iguana, including all aspects of the basic biology as well as population size, extent of occurrence, and threats. It is estimated that only 5,000 individuals remain in the wild on Roatan, with a proportion of these residing at Sherman Arch’s iguana and Marine Park in French Cay. Iguanas play an important role in the regeneration of forests, with a species in Costa Rica recognized as being among the main seed dispersers for some plants of a deciduous forest.

As you travel around Roatan, you will often notice kids walking down the streets carrying iguanas or ladies offering iguana stew. While hunting of iguana is prohibited by law, there are no real active means of protection or management at national or local level. For a species on the Critically Endangered List, very little is done to protect these animals. Threatened by over-exploitation for local consumption, habitat destruction, and collection for the international pet trade, why do we not do more to protect them? How can it be illegal to hunt these animals, yet serving iguanas on menus results in no reprisal? Sadly only once species disappear do we recognize the wrongs of our ways. To protect the iguana for future generations, our government must take active steps in protecting them.