Summer Matching Grant for Mesoamerica Is a Huge Success
In July, an anonymous donor offered a $25,000 matching grant to help CORAL expand its voluntary standards project along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (MAR). Standards have a long history of improving service quality and safety in many industries and CORAL's goal has been to bring these same improvements to marine protected area management in our project sites in Mexico, Belize, and Honduras.
According to the terms of the matching grant, we had until September 15 to raise $25,000. Not only did we raise more than $25,000 to meet our goal and receive the matching gift, but one of our donors was so inspired by the matching opportunity that she called Executive Director Brian Huse directly to make a $50,000 donation for our work in Mesoamerica. This dedicated infusion of resources will allow us to support the expansion of existing programs as well as develop new conservation initiatives in our three project sites.
The CORAL Reef Leadership Network program, which is designed to teach local tour operators and marine park managers how to train their peers in environmentally sustainable marine recreation practices, is going strong in Cozumel. The first group of CORAL Reef Leaders has trained sixty tour guides since August. The Environmental Walk-Through program, in which CORAL staff assesses tour operators for good environmental practices and makes recommendations for improvements according to the voluntary standards, is ongoing and expanding. And local conservation initiatives brainstormed during CORAL Conservation in Action workshops are being further conceptualized and readied for CORAL microgrant consideration.
The first CORAL Reef Leadership Network training will launch in Belize in November. CORAL is continuing its outreach to tour guide associations and MPA managers throughout Belize to build support for turning the voluntary standards into law. The Kids in Action program, created during a Conservation in Action workshop and funded by a CORAL microgrant, continues to educate local kids about the importance of preserving coral reef, mangrove, and sea grass ecosystems. Three active mooring buoying projects-in Belize City, Placencia, and San Pedro-continue to reduce anchor damage caused by marine recreation activities. The Environmental Walk-Through program in Belize City is focusing primarily on dive and snorkel operators who service cruise ship tourists. And in partnership with Conservation International and the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People initiative, CORAL is continuing its biophysical monitoring of local reefs to determine the extent to which adoption of the voluntary standards for good practices improves reef health.
With the support of a CORAL microgrant, the Roatan Marine Park Association is moving forward with phase two of its park infrastructure improvements, including installation of fishing mooring buoys to reduce anchor damage and channel markers to better manage boat traffic, reduce propeller damage, and eliminate groundings. New field representative Jenny Myton will be training in the Environmental Walk-Through program in October.Photo credit: Julie Bennett, Roatan, Honduras