Utila’s Coral Reefs
Utila’s coral reefs support approximately 8,500 people with food and income. The nearshore coral reef is a fringing reef. Fringing reefs are the most common type of reef and help protect coastlines from waves and storms—including the coastline along Utila.
In Utila, many community members rely on fishing as a primary source of food and income. These fisheries depend on healthy coral reefs, and likewise, the coral reefs depend on healthy fisheries—but over the years, fish populations have been in decline due to overfishing. Utila’s coral reefs also bring many divers to the island and bring in much-needed tourism revenue—but unsustainable tourism also threatens the health of Utila’s coral reefs.
Finally, poor water quality poses a serious threat to both Utila’s coral reefs and human health. Inadequate wastewater treatment means sewage seeps into the marine environment, bringing harmful bacteria and nutrients.
Our role on Utila is to be a unifier, a partner, a funder, and a champion for coral reef issues. Since 2011, we have partnered with Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA) Utila and other local organizations. Our goal is to ensure their efforts to protect their coral reefs are successful.
We sponsor a water quality monitoring program through BICA-Utila, and have helped the Roatán branch of BICA build the only water quality testing laboratory in the Bay Islands. The results provide a better understanding of what is in Utila’s coastal water, allowing our partners to take stronger actions to address pollution.
Utila is part of the Bay Islands National Marine Park (BINMP) and its natural resources, including its coral reefs, are managed by a committee of local stakeholders and local organizations like the Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA). We’re working with these partners to help establish an effective management and patrol program to ensure BINMP regulations are enforced and coral reefs are protected.
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 →
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 →
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.