When COVID-19 hit, the Roatán Marine Park lost 85% of its revenue. But through CORAL’s partnership, they were able to prioritize patrols and continue protecting their coral reefs.
Like many businesses and organizations in Honduras’ Bay Islands, the Roatán Marine Park (RMP) is almost entirely reliant upon tourism—85% of its operating budget is tied to tourism, both directly and indirectly. So when COVID-19 led to widespread global lockdowns and a sudden halt in tourism, it hit the community and RMP like a ton of bricks.
Overnight, their revenue plummeted. Their four gift shops, which typically account for nearly half of their revenue, no longer had any customers. Donations from tourists stopped coming. Hotels, restaurants and dive shops halted their sponsorships as they struggled to cover their own expenses.
The RMP is one of 14 organizations that are responsible for day-to-day management of the resources within the Bay Islands National Marine Park, the largest marine protected area in Honduras and part of the Mesoamerican Reef system. We have partnered with them for over a decade to help build their capacity and ensure they have the resources they need to successfully manage their marine resources.
The RMP team decided that maintaining their patrols was their top priority. They knew that with the struggling economy, people were going to head to the ocean to get food, and they were likely to see an increase in illegal fishing. As predicted, from April to June RMP saw a 150% increase in poaching compared to the same period last year.
But paying for patrols meant they had to make cuts elsewhere. The non-patrol staff agreed to cut their hours and their salaries by 50%, and they closed all but one of their gift shops.
Despite the hardships, the RMP is resilient. Much of that resilience can be attributed to the relationships and collaborations they have in the community, which is largely a result of the support they have received from CORAL over the years.
The community has stepped up to support them as much as possible and help keep their overhead expenses low. They’ve donated supplies and they’ve helped house and feed Navy members who participate in the RMP patrols. CORAL also secured over $150,000 US in COVID-relief grants for our Honduran partners, including RMP, to help cover their operating expenses.