Photo credit: Antonio Busiello

Roatan’s Coral Reefs

Roatan’s coral reefs are part of the larger Mesoamerican Reef—the second largest barrier reef system in the world. On the southwest side of the island, the Cordelia Banks Site of Wildlife Importance is home to one of the last remaining healthy patches of staghorn coral, a keystone coral species, in the Mesoamerican region. 

Roatan’s incredible marine environment attracts over 1.9 million tourists and visitors to the island each year, contributing nearly $1 billion USD to the Honduran economy annually. But that same tourism poses a threat to coral reefs and the wildlife that depend on it.  

Additionally, unplanned urban development and insufficient wastewater treatment facilities often result in untreated sewage entering the ocean where it negatively impacts coral reefs and human health. And, like in many coastal communities, overfishing often removes vital species that feed on algae and help keep the coral reefs in balance.

Our Work

Our work in Roatan is built on partnerships with organizations like the Roatan Marine Park, Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA), Healthy Reefs Initiative, ZOLITUR, the central and local governments, as well as other nonprofits and community organizations. We support these organizations in building sustainable and lasting conservation solutions that help support local island communities and economies. 

Credit: Antonio Busiello

Clean Water for Reefs

Our work in Roatan to ensure coral reefs has paved the way for the rest of our water quality work throughout the Mesoamerican region. In the community of West End, we helped the Polo’s Water Board operationalize their wastewater treatment system and connect over 99% of viable homes and businesses to it. The project led to a significant reduction in bacteria levels in the marine environment, and the local beach has now received two blue flag certifications—a first for any developed beach in Honduras. We are building upon our successes in West End to expand our work to the neighboring communities of West Bay and Coxen Hole, as well as other locations throughout the region. We also partner with BICA Roatan to regularly monitor marine water quality, and helped them build the first and only water quality monitoring laboratory in the Bay Islands.   

school of fish off the coast of Roatan, Honduras
Credit: Antonio Busiello

Healthy Fisheries

Roatan sits within the larger Bay Islands National Marine Park, and the area around Roatan is protected by the Roatan Marine Park (RMP), a local nonprofit organization and a close CORAL partner. Throughout our time in Roatan, we have helped the RMP establish a strong fisheries management plan that is built upon community support, regular data collection and monitoring, and a robust system of patrols and enforcement. To ensure they have the funds necessary to continue these efforts, we helped the RMP develop a sustainable business model. We continue partnering with RMP to grow their programs and support them during tough times—like COVID lockdowns and the arrival of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease.

Credit: Roatan Marine Park

Habitat Protection

With Roatan’s reefs supporting so much tourism traffic, ensuring these ecosystems remain intact is essential. In fact, our work in Roatan began in 2005 through a partnership with the Roatan Marine Park to install mooring buoys that helped protect coral reefs from damage by boat anchors. Several years later, we were successful in helping the government declare Cordelia Banks as a protected area to help protect it from the negative impacts of surrounding tourism. Today, we continue to work with local partners, businesses, and tourists to create a culture of environmental stewardship and reef-protection efforts and advocate for coral reef protection measures.  

Photo credit: Antonio Busiello

Get Involved

If you’re a local resident of Roatan and interested in joining our efforts to protect coral reefs, we encourage you to reach out to the Roatan Marine Park and BICA Roatan to take advantage of their community opportunities and programs. 

If you’re traveling to Roatan soon, visit Go Blue Bay Islands to find a list of businesses and activities to support that help protect the natural environment.

Recent News
Roatan coastline

Could Cleaner Water Mean Farewell for Coral Disease?

Lea esto en español When improperly treated sewage enters the marine environment, it can have devastating effects on a coral reef. Not only does it bring bacteria that can pose a threat to human health, but it also brings nutrients that fuel the growth of algae—a fierce competitor in the coral reef ecosystem. Algae compete… Continue Reading →

Roatán Marine Park: A Year of Strength

Over the last 15 years, we’ve stood alongside the Roatán Marine Park (RMP) as they’ve grown into the model marine management organization that they are today. They set the standard for how a marine protected area should be managed, and we’ve been honored to partner with them to build capacity and ensure they have the… Continue Reading →

boats parked off the coast of Roatan, Honduras

Finding Resilience in Honduras

As Executive Director of the Roatán Marine Park, Francis Lean can relate to her tourist clientele—she used to be one of them. Originally from Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, Lean used to join the 1.6 million people who visited Roatán on vacation each year. Roatán is one of the three main islands that make up… Continue Reading →

Empty tourist info center on Roatan

CORAL Helps Revitalize Bay Island Economies in Honduras

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an unprecedented economic crisis across the globe—particularly in countries and regions that are highly dependent upon tourism revenue. In Honduras, for example, eight percent of the GDP comes from tourism. Spring break is one of their most popular travel periods when tourists from around the world flock to the Bay… Continue Reading →

Blue Flag Certification

Coral Reefs in Roatán Thrive with Clean Water

The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), our partners in the Bay Islands of Honduras, and the people of Roatán celebrated a major win as a decade of work recently came to fruition when the island passed clean water standards for the first time since monitoring began in 2013. The island of Roatán, part of the Bay… Continue Reading →

Resources
Clear blue waters off the coast of Roatan, Honduras

Train the Trainers

CORAL and partners have developed this “Train the Trainers” program for tour guide operators in the Mesoamerican Reef to more effectively educate tourists about coral reefs and how to protect them. The resources below all encompass the Train the Trainers program. Video Presentations These four Modules cover a number of topics, including reef biology and… Continue Reading →

Scientific Article

Ecomorphological analyses reveal impact of land-based stressors on stock structure of two commercially important fish species in the Caribbean

Many Caribbean nations lack information on the ecology and biology of marine species, which are essential for food security and livelihoods in the region. This study aimed to advance the knowledge of two commercially important fish species, lane snapper (Lutjanus synagris) and white grunt (Haemulon plumierii), using cost-efficient techniques.

Infosheet

Good Environmental Practices: Diving and Snorkeling

Coral reefs are among the world’s most spectacular ecosystems. As coral reefs face an increasing number of threats, coral reef visitors can play an important role in helping protect these vulnerable habitats. Follow these simple guidelines to become a “coral friendly” diver/snorkeler.

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