The Roatan Marine Park is an outstanding example of local residents coming together to protect and conserve local natural resources. The efforts of this organization have undoubtedly helped preserve the beauty of Roatan for future generations to still enjoy.
History of the Roatan Marine Park
What we now call the Roatan Marine Park was originally a group of concerned scuba dive shop operators and individuals hoping to protect the area of Sandy Bay. As more divers were coming to Roatan, the local community saw the need to create a marine reserve to protect the shoreline and marine habitats just offshore. Originally, this protected area encompassed about six kilometers in Sandy Bay between Lawson Rock and Gibson Bight.
A few years later the communities of West End and West Bay were incorporated, bringing the protected area all the way around to the southwestern shore of Roatan at Key Hole. Today, the Roatan Marine Park works with the Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA) to enforce Honduran and Bay Island maritime laws and regulations around all of Roatan.
Conservation Efforts and Education
The Roatan Marine Park aims to create sustainable change in Roatan through a bottom-up approach. Their primary objectives include addressing the environmental impact of increased tourism, the lack of enforcement of local fishing laws, and the unregulated coastal development affecting the local environment.
The activities of the Roatan Marine Park include an education program for local schools, an extensive marine infrastructure program, designing and implementing tourist education programs, facilitating community involvement and leadership, and financing several patrol boats plus staff.
How You Can Support the Roatan Marine Park
If you are visiting Roatan and plan to snorkel or scuba dive, you should buy the Roatan Marine Park wristband supplied by your dive shop or activity provider. Everyone who scuba dives around Roatan is enjoying the work of the Roatan Marine Park, whether through infrastructure like the buoy your boat ties up to, or through their education and conservation efforts so you continue to see flourishing coral reefs and abundant marine life.
When you choose a restaurant or opt to go shopping in Roatan, be sure to support local businesses that are following sustainable practices. Check for a Sustainable Seafood Guide poster at restaurants, and never purchase any type of marine life (including conch shells, turtle shells, or seahorses).
If you purchase property in Roatan, be sure to learn all local marine laws and understand how you can minimize your impact on the local environment. Whether you are building your dream home or purchasing a beachfront condo, be a constructive citizen and be sure to follow local rules and regulations.
You can donate to the Roatan Marine Park to support their tireless work. Become a member or make a donation directly on their website. There are also regular fundraising events benefitting the Roatan Marine Park, so be sure to attend for some fun and for a good cause! They usually post information on their Facebook page, which you can follow here.