An underwater paradise
The Mesoamerican Reef within the Western Caribbean is the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and home to some of the last healthy populations of staghorn and elkhorn corals. Its picturesque beaches and dive sites attract visitors from around the world. But it faces significant threats, including climate change, land-based pollution, and unsustainable fishing.
We have nearly 25 years of experience working in the Mesoamerican Reef region (MAR), with an emphasis on building resilient communities and addressing direct threats to coral reefs. We believe that our work in the MAR—pairing cutting-edge science with community engagement and activation—can serve as a replicable model for coral reef conservation efforts around the world.
Saving the MAR’s coral reefs
Our work in the MAR includes four priority sites in Honduras (Roatan, Utila, Trujillo, and Tela Bay) and one in Mexico (Cozumel). Working at a regional level magnifies the results of local conservation efforts.
Our work in Honduras focuses on filling a substantial gap in ensuring coral reefs have what they need to survive—clean water.
Our Clean Water for Reefs initiative in Honduras has resulted in measurable improvements to coastal water quality and has set the stage for addressing wastewater pollution across the MAR. Thanks to our efforts with partners in West End, Roatan, over 28.6 million gallons of sewage per year are now being treated, which has resulted in a significant reduction in Enterococcus bacteria since 2013. The nearby Half Moon Bay beach is now a certified Blue Flag beach for its clean water. We currently collaborate with the Inter-American Development Bank and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration to update and improve wastewater treatment infrastructure across all of Honduras’ coastal municipalities.
We have implemented improved management systems for numerous Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Roatan, Utila, Trujillo, Guanaja, and Tela Bay.
We ensure that management plans include actions to reduce fishing pressure, especially for herbivorous fishes that control macroalgal growth and maintain healthy corals. We also address the underlying social and economic drivers of overfishing and create win-wins for communities and the environment by promoting income diversification projects. We take a community-centric approach to ensure local stakeholders have the capacity to manage their own resources. As an example, we recently worked with our partners to establish an informal fisheries co-management system in the Tela Bay, which lead to an improvement in lane snapper and blue runner populations.
An inspiring role model
Our research tells us that if we reduce human impacts on coral reefs in strategic places, we can create the necessary conditions for coral reefs to evolve naturally and survive climate change. The MAR is a great demonstration of what this conservation approach looks like in real life—partnering with local communities to build a network of healthy coral reefs that can adapt to global changes.
Mesoamerican Region Program Staff
Mesoamerican Region Stories
CORAL has reached a major milestone and is excited to release the Protocol Handbook for Monitoring Marine Water Quality in the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) System. What exactly is the Protocol Handbook? The first of its kind, this coordinated water quality sampling project is a giant leap forward in giving water quality monitoring the spotlight it… Continue Reading →
Nowadays there’s an app for everything. There’s even one that can help protect coral reefs! The app is called SMART and it’s a tool being used by conservationists around the world to protect wildlife and its natural habitats. Thanks to our local partners, dedicated patrol rangers, and your generous support, we are expanding access to… Continue Reading →
In recent weeks, two CORAL staff members from the Western Caribbean participated in a leadership program led by Sureste Sostenible, which offered a unique opportunity for coral reef conservationists to advance their work. Twenty one coral reef conservationists were selected and among them, were CORAL’s Project and Outreach Manager Dr. Andrea Rivera-Sosa and Bay Islands… Continue Reading →
It’s an exciting time at CORAL as we look to replicate our success and maximize our impact in new locations across the Western Caribbean. We started collaborating with the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) to expand our coral reef conservation work to Belize City and its surrounding areas. This partnership offers an opportunity to take steps… Continue Reading →
It’s 2023 and for us, that means a new year with new opportunities to continue protecting the world’s coral reefs. We are so grateful for each and every donor who continuously believes in our mission and stands up for the health of our ocean’s most vital ecosystems. Your generous gift will fund our regional programs… Continue Reading →
Tela Bay, Honduras has some of the healthiest corals along the Mesoamerican Reef, boasting an abundance of critically endangered species, averaging a high rate of coral cover, and providing an important source of coral larvae for the region. It’s why we work with local communities, scientists, and partners to protect Tela Bay and its natural… Continue Reading →
Did you know there’s a fish tank that produces tasty vegetables, can create economic opportunities, and helps protect coral reefs? It’s called an aquaponics system, and it combines aquaculture and hydroponics to raise fish and grow organic fruits and vegetables. An aquaponics system relies on a symbiotic relationship between fish and plants. Fish waste fertilizes… Continue Reading →
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 →
With an almost 500% increase in fish biomass, a successful “closed fishing season” in Tela Bay, Honduras is offering relief to both community fishers and nearby coral reefs. Recently, the proper funding and on-the-ground support has allowed the Tela community to effectively carry-out a two-month closed fishing season in coastal lagoons and enforce sustainable fishing… Continue Reading →
In Tela Honduras, a local farming project is helping to combat overfishing and repopulate the area’s vital coral reefs. The initiative supports local efforts that utilize alternative sources of food and income, in order to support a coastal community that is highly dependent on fishing. Our financial support, along with assistance from Tela’s environmental committee,… Continue Reading →