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


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.

Think twice before jumping in the water

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

As you venture down to the beach to top up your tan or go for a snorkel, it’s almost instinctive to slather sunscreen on and spray yourself with DEET. It’s always important to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays and the pesky no-seeums! It’s fine if you don’t venture into the water, but if you go for a cooling dip or a snorkel, you’re introducing a variety of poisons and toxins into the sea and may be contributing to the death of Roatan’s reefs.

A recent study commissioned by the European Commission estimates that up to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen washes off swimmers annually in oceans worldwide. Sunscreens are comprised of around 20 compounds which act as UV filters and preservatives. The study found that four of these compounds can awaken dormant viruses in the symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae, which live inside corals. The algae are vital in the coral’s survival and without them the coral bleaches, turning white and then dying. The chemicals found in sunscreen cause the viruses to replicate until their algal host explodes, spilling viruses into the surrounding seawater, where they can infect neighboring coral communities. It was found that just a 20-minute dip could wash off about a quarter of the chemicals in the lotion, resulting in the chemicals ending on the reef. The study concluded that up to 10% of the world’s reefs are at risk from sunscreen-induced coral bleaching, a gloomy outlook.

While there are so many anthropologic threats to Roatan’s coral reefs, ranging from sedimentation, sewage, pollution and development, you can at least do your part and choose to use eco-friendly sunscreens. Also avoid using DEET if you intend to go immediately into the sea as this is toxic to plants and animals alike. The Marine Park Green Store stocks eco-friendly sunscreen and repellent, so do your part to prevent further bleaching!