Scaling Up Marine Conservation Initiatives in Honduras

Honduras is known more for its reputation as the current murder capital of the world than for its successful marine-conservation initiatives. Yet the country is quickly becoming a model for others around the world for its leadership in this arena. Active citizens and local conservation groups, a government looking for good news to share, and some of the Caribbean’s most healthy coral reefs are contributing to the development of a comprehensive network of marine-protected areas that benefit both Honduras’s reefs and its people.

My organization, the Coral Reef Alliance, has been working in Honduras for nearly a decade, first on the island of Roatan, and more recently on the island of Utila and in Tela, a developing tourism destination on the mainland’s northern coast. What we’ve seen is a commitment to and interest in taking what works in one place and working together to scale it up to other places, with significant success.

And it’s local groups like the Roatan Marine Park (RMP) that are leading the effort. In the 10 years since its founding, this small, grassroots organization formed by dive operators and other business leaders has made great strides in improving the health of reefs in the Sandy Bay-West End Marine Reserve. With coral reefs in decline around the world, it is especially gratifying that RMP’s efforts have led to measurable improvements in reef health as published in a recent report by the Healthy Reefs Initiative.

How did they do this? Perhaps most important is the fact that RMP was founded based on the premise that conservation was good for business. The local economy is heavily dependent on dive tourism and the tourism industry wanted to ensure that their livelihoods were protected. Indeed, the dive industry was so interested in conservation that they were even willing to tax themselves —> Read More