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Logo RoatanMarinePark The Roatán Marine Park (RMP) is a grassroots, community-based, non-profit organization located on Roatan. The organization was formed in January 2005 when a group of concerned dive operators and local businesses united in an effort to protect Roatan's fragile coral reefs. Initially, the RMP's goal was to run a patrol program within the Sandy Bay-West End Marine Reserve (SBWEMR), to prevent over exploitation through unsustainable fishing practices. Over time, the organization expanded the scope of their environmental efforts through the addition of other programs to protect

Roatan's natural resources, including patrols and infrastructure, education, conservation and public awareness.

All visitors to Roatan that participate in a water based activity are charged a $5 stay (divers $10 per stay) donation to use the park. This will be collected at the start of your excursion in your dive or excursion shop.

 

Roatan has changed a lot in recent years and many people forget what actually initially drew them to this small piece of paradise. What was once a simple island where people relied on generators for light and used dories where horses couldn't reach, Roatan has rapidly become an internationally recognized tourist destination. Pristine beaches, thriving reefs, a simple way of life, all these factors brought visitors which in turn brought development that have had both positive and negative impacts to the island. When fishermen recall how they could wade out into the lagoons and spend minutes collecting conch and lobster, they also remember the small communities which could harvest what they need from a bountiful reef. Sadly, the reefs that have felt decades of pressure are now showing the strain and it's becoming apparent that the endless list of anthropogenic threats is taking their toll. Unregulated development, sewage, runoff, dredging, overfishing, anchor damage, the reefs are buckling from these strains and few realize that this island paradise is spiralling rapidly into an environmental calamity. Once pristine beaches and lush hillsides are now sites for homes, resorts, restaurants and other developments.

 

While development is inevitable, it's important that we consider the negative impacts from these changes and mitigate against them. While many look towards Government agencies and local Municipalities whose responsibility is to preserve the ecosystems that make up the Bay Islands, the reefs, mangroves, iron shore, forests and seagrass are being chopped down, filled in, dredged up and built on. Even with the creation of the Sandy Bay West End Marine Reserve in 1988 and the Bay Islands declared a marine protected area in 1997, it became apparent that if people wanted to protect their island, they would have to take it into their own hands. BICA, the Bay Islands Conservation Association, began managing the Reserve in the mid 90s and currently protects multiple sites throughout the Utila, Guanaja and Roatan. Conservation however is a costly process and some local business owners felt that there was more that could be done to help conserve Roatan's reefs. In 2005, with support from the local community, a new non profit, grass roots organization was founded called the Roatan Marine Park, RMP.

 

In the very beginning, the RMP was primarily a Board of Directors comprised of concerned dive shop owners who had to solicit businesses for their support. Through their efforts and dedication, the RMP was able to fund a patrol boat which could enforce laws established over 25 years prior. Their efforts initially focused within the Reserve and illegal activities which included the removal of lobster and conch and the use of spear guns and nets. With an effective patrol program in place due to an alliance with the Honduran National Police, the RMP's next role was to provide sufficient marine infrastructure for the stakeholders. Funding patrol01
 

 from CORAL, USAID and PADI Project AWARE enabled an extensive infrastructure program to be developed which consisted of dive, yacht and fishing moorings, and channel markers. As the organization grew, the Board of Directors could no longer manage the increasing work load so official RMP staff were hired. These workers were responsible for running operations, applying for grants, socialising with supporters, securing financing, raising awareness, to name a few tasks.

 

While reducing illegal fishing and providing marine infrastructure may be adequate in increasing marine life and reducing anchor damage, the key to success for a conservational organization is community socialization. Of the 85,000 people that reside on Roatan, very few actually know that coral is a living organism or that mangroves are an important nursery ground for juvenile marine species. This lack of knowledge was something that both the RMP and BICA have strived to improve. With this in mind, our staff developed a schools education program not only to bring marine education to the classroom, but to bring the classroom to the reef. School snorkelling trips, beach clean ups, mangrove replanting, glass-bottom boat rides and Discover Scuba Diving Experiences allow children to develop deeper understanding of the value of our coral reef and threats to its future survival. In addition to the reef and its inhabitants, a broader range of conservational topics have also been taught in the schools by our staff and volunteers.

 

With direct international flights and the construction of 2 cruise ship docks, Roatan is no longer only accessible to backpackers but cruise-shippers, day trippers and jet-setters alike. With this huge influx of visitors, even more pressure has been put on the reef. A large proportion of these holiday makers know very little about how their choices on what they buy, what they eat and what they discard impact the reef. The RMP has focused much of its efforts in raising environmental awareness and uses brochures, posters, signs, videos, and other media to educate tourists and locals alike. Making people aware of the problem is the first step in providing a solution.

 

patrol02 There are numerous other activities that the RMP is involved with, however the priorities will always be enforcement, marine infrastructure and raising environmental awareness. The sad reality about conservation is that it's primarily a business and that without funding, day to day activities can not simply happen. The RMP generates a significant portion of funding through

the sale of merchandise, snorkel rental, donations, memberships and the voluntary "user fee". A large portion of funds also come in the form of grants from organisations including WWF, USAID, PADI Project AWARE, CORAL, The Nature Conservancy and PMAIB. Every year though, our small, grass roots organization struggles for funding and has to make cut backs regarding staffing and projects. While nearly every business on this island benefits directly from the reef through tourism, few realize the importance of conserving this vital resource. As our organization struggles financially from year to year, many of these new businesses that choose not to support conservation don't realize what was happening to the reef and its inhabitants before the RMP was formed. Whether regarding moorings, marine life or schools education, many people take our labours for granted and don't realize how much effort is required to try and preserve Roatan's reefs for future generations. We regard raising awareness key in conservation and will continually strive to educate locals and tourists alike that our reefs our precious and with their conscientious decisions, our children will be able to appreciate them too.