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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Think back to 2020—hospital visits rose as COVID cases climbed, borders closed, businesses and schools shut down, and people panicked. The world we once knew spun upside down in a matter of days. And like so many, ocean conservation organizations, which depend highly on tourism revenue, suddenly faced unprecedented challenges as they worked to protect… Continue Reading →
Like the birds and the bees, corals also need to reproduce and continue to build upon the colorful reefs that we know and love. But have you ever wondered how the coral animal reproduces? After all, it can’t move and it doesn’t have any reproductive organs. Let’s take a look at exactly how new coral… Continue Reading →
At just 31 years old, Trudy Hilton, a local from the island of Roatan, Honduras is determined to make a lasting impact in her community. She recently became Roatan’s new vice mayor and is focusing on improving the long-term sustainability of the island and its natural environments. We’re proud to call Hilton a local partner,… Continue Reading →
Clean water is critical—both for the health of coral reefs and the communities that depend on them. That’s why we support sanitation efforts in places like Coxen Hole, Honduras. Coxen Hole is a community on the island of Roatan, which is located just off the country’s northern coastline. Coxen Hole depends on its coral reefs,… Continue Reading →
While the coronavirus pandemic spread around the world, a destructive disease was also wreaking havoc underwater on coral reefs: stony coral tissue loss disease. This fast-spreading disease, which can rapidly kill huge swaths of coral if left untreated, was recently discovered in coral reefs off the coasts of Roatán, Guanaja, and Utila, three Caribbean islands… Continue Reading →
This article is translated from the original article written in Spanish by MAR Fund. Written By Lucy Calderón, Communications Intern at MAR Fund, and Translated by Centro Oxford Popularly known as staghorn corals, due to the similarity of their structure with that of the antler of the mammal in question, the Acropora cervicornis corals are… Continue Reading →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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.
This set of educational cartoons teaches snorkelers, divers, and boat operators the “do’s and don’t’s” of sustainable coral reef tourism. Please feel free to share this resource.
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.