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.
If you’re a resident of Utila and want to be more involved in protecting coral reefs, reach out to Pamela Ortega or the Bay Islands Conservation Association.
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