The Roatan Marine Park (RMP) is a non-profit, community-based organization, established in January 2005 by a group of dive operators and local businesses who were concerned about the alarming rate of reef degradation in the Sandy Bay-West End Marine Reserve (SBWEMR). The Reserve was declared a marine protected area in 1988 by the Municipality of Roatán. It encompasses 13km of coastline and its boundaries extend from the high watermark down to 60m in depth. The RMP acquired official Honduran Non-Governmental Organisation Status in May of 2008.
Patrols & Infrastructure
RMP's initial efforts focused on reducing illegal activity within the Park, which include removal of lobster and conch and the use of spear guns and nets. This was achieved through an alliance with the Honduran National Police who accompany Park Rangers. Later, funded by grants from CORAL, USAID and PADI Project AWARE, an extensive marine infrastructure program was implemented. The RMP now maintains over 60 dive moorings, 20 yacht moorings, channel markers and fishing moorings within the Reserve. In 2008 the RMP opened up an office at Barefoot Cay to manage Roatan’s southern shore. Currently the office operates daily patrols and maintains and installs marine infrastructure outside the SBWEMR.
Education & Public Awareness
The RMP recognises that long-term resource sustainability can only be achieved through improved education and community participation. This bottom-up approach will enable our children to take responsibility for protection of the reef in the future. After all, our island is in their hands. In response the RMP have developed an 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, 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. Teaching the thousands of children RMP staff visit each year about Reducing, Reusing and Recycling, RMP have certainly made some head way in educating Roatan’s youth.
Research is an essential component of successful marine resource management. Besides enabling the RMP to monitor the effectiveness of its conservation efforts, scientific information feeds into their education programs, providing information that they disseminate to the general public. The more that people understand about their effect on the reef, the more they become empowered to participate in RMP activities, taking responsibility for protecting of the marine environment upon which their livelihoods depend.
The Roatán Marine Park runs many other activities alongside its major programs. RMP have assisted in establishing the first ever plastic bottle recycling program and are currently working on re-implementing the program. They also carry out mangrove re-plantation schemes, assist with governmental environmental damage inspections and attend development proposal environmental impact assessments. They have also been instrumental in setting up community empowerment initiatives through supporting the creation of the Water Taxis Association and the Fisherman’s Alliance.
The RMP raises a significant portion of funding needed for these activities through the sale of merchandise and other products in their Eco-Store, snorkel rental, and the Marine Park voluntary “user fee”. RMP also rely on donations and memberships as a source of income. Finally, a large portion of funds come in the form of grants from organisations including WWF, USAID, PADI Project AWARE, CORAL, The Nature Conservancy and PMAIB.Ongoing efforts seek to ensure the many users of this delicate marine ecosystem are educated and understand the importance of sustainable business and leisure activities. Tourism Roatan recognizes the importance of a healthy reef system for both the local Roatan community as well as visitors; today and for generations to come.
A huge thank you goes out to the park’s staff and executive team for their ongoing efforts. The people of Roatan rely on the surrounding waters for their livelihood both as a fertile fishing ground and as an economic generator through tourism activities. We understand that without the pristine, tropical reefs that surround Roatan Island, the very essence of this destination would be lost.
What can you do? The Park greatly appreciates any support they receive to help finance the multitude of projects listed above and one of the ways you can support Roatan Marine Park is through visiting the Marine Park Office in West End, renting equipment, purchasing merchandise as well as abiding by the guidelines set out for responsible reef use. Donations are also accepted through the Roatan Marine Park website.
Roatan reefs offer some of the most spectacular diving in the Caribbean. The very uniqueness of a Roatan vacation is easy access to an amazing array of pristine underwater life. In many cases, Roatan snorkelling and diving experiences are just a few feet from shore.
It is extremely important that we all work together to keep the reef system healthy and in its pristine state. Did you know coral grows at a rate of 1 cm (.4 in) per year? It takes thousands of years for reefs to grow to the size that you see along Roatan Island. Yet coral is very delicate and sensitive to human interference. One brush of a flipper or touch by humans can cause permanent damage to coral and its protective coating.
Please do not touch the coral. Give yourself adequate space between you and edge of the reef. And remember, you’re wearing flippers!
Always snorkel along the edges of the reef, not on the reef crest. Particularly in very shallow spots, people have inadvertently touched the coral and been swept onto it by waves.
Want another good reason not to touch the coral? It stings! Many species of coral, namely Fire Coral, create a burning sensation on the human skin when touched. Cuts and scrapes from coral take a long time to heal.
The Roatan Marine Park offers additional information and leads initiatives to help preserve the reef. Consider visiting their site, learning more about what you can do and how you can support their efforts.
Although the Roatan Marine Park has a mandate to educate people about the ecology and fragiity of the reef and its importance to the Islands economic and cultural well being, its purpose is not to monitor diver/swimmer safety or provide a life guard or rescue agency. It is the sole responsibility of the diver/snorkellor/swimmer for there own safety and to observe safe practices. Here are a few safety tips while diving, snorkelling or swimming either in or outside the Roatan Marine Park.
- Roatan and the Bay Islands have an excellent diving safety record however, it is important to take responsibility for your own safety whenever entering the water.
- When enquiring about dive courses and instruction, be sure to ask how many other students will be in your group. Eight students is the maximum allowed by PADI.
- Ask to see the equipment you will be using. Even as someone new to the sport, checking the basics will make your diving experience is that much safer. Check the O-ring for cracks and listen to the regulator – there should be no hissing sound when you turn it off. Look for certificates displayed that show the dive shop’s air has been recently analyzed and approved.
- Make sure you feel comfortable with your instructor. There are many companies offering great courses here so pick a business and instructors that will help maximize your experience.
- All dive boats should have a captain that stays onboard while students and instructors are in the water. Onboard supplies should include Oxygen and VHF radio.
- Always dive within your limits and abilities.
- Never dive alone. Dive with a buddy.
- Be aware of motor boats above.
- Drinking and drugs while diving do not mix. Abide by the regulations around time limits when diving and using alcohol.
- PADI recommends 24 hours btween your last dive to when you fly, it is a good idea to leave a full 24 hours between your last dive and flying.