Friday, April 23, 2010

Roatan, Honduras

Roatán, located between the islands of Útila and Guanaja, is the largest of HondurasBay Islands. The island was formerly known as Ruatan and Rattan. It is approximately 60 kilometres (37 mi) long, and less than 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) across at its widest point.

The Roatan Marine Park (RMP) is a grass roots, community-based, non-profit organization located on Roatan. Our 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, it was our goal to run a patrol program within the Sandy Bay-West End Marine Reserve (SBWEMR), to prevent over exploitation through unsustainable fishing practices. Over time, we expanded the scope of our environmental efforts through the addition of other programs encompassing the entire island.
The RMP runs a broad range of activities to protect Roatan’s natural resources, including patrols and infrastructure, education, conservation and public awareness. They attend government enforced environmental damage inspections and provide environmental impact assessments (EIAs) on sites of proposed developments on the island. They also assisted in establishing the first-ever plastic bottle recycling program on the island, introduced a “Bags for Life” campaign (which promotes the use of re-usable shopping bags), and have been instrumental in setting up community empowerment initiatives through supporting the creation of the Water Taxis Association and the Fisherman’s Alliance.
With a rapidly developing island, the number of challenges the RMP face increases every day. They are focusing on engaging diverse community stakeholders to aid in developing solutions that can ensure long-term, sustainable management of our natural resources.
One source of funding for the RMP comes from the $10 user fee collected from divers. Each paid user receives a bracelet or token as proof of payment. If you are diving in a dive shop that does not sell the bracelets, you can also pay the fee in the Marine Park Offices located in West End and Barefoot Cay. The RMP Eco-Store in Half Moon Bay in West End also has a large variety of eco friendly items, t-shirts, and locally made souvenirs. All of the proceeds go to support the RMP.