Approximately 50 people gathered at the Blue Marlin on December 16 for the Roatan Marine Park’s (RMP) general assembly for the presentation of the organization’s 2009 achievements, goals for 2010, and to select new members for the Board of Directors. This was the second meeting of its type.
What started in 2005 as a grassroots organization has grown to a major regulating and governing body over Roatan’s reefs and ecological systems. The RMP achieved non-profit status in May of 2008 from the Secretaria de Gobenacion y Justicia, which then allowed the organization to apply for international grants, greatly increasing its scope of service to the island. “Obtaining nonprofit status was incredibly important, as we could grow in ways we couldn’t before,” said Grazzia Matamoros, Executive Director. By the end of 2009, RMP received support from USAID, CORAL, Project AWARE, Nature Conservancy, and WWF. The RMP shares duties as co-managers of the Marine Reserve with the Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA) under an agreement with ICS, the Honduran Institute for Forestry Conservation, Protected Areas and Wildlife.
While the organization has had access to a greater wealth of resources, the worldwide economic downturn has kept recent income to a minimum. “Basically, we’re just trying to get by, cutting costs as much as possible, and maintaining services as best we can,” said Nic Bach, Director of Infrastructure and Patrols. “We need about $10,000 a month to survive.”
RMP has two chapters: Sandy Bay West End Marine Reserve (SBWEMR) and the South Side. Reported accomplishments in 2009 were the increased installation and maintenance of dive, yacht, and fishing moorings and channel markers; higher numbers of people and contraband apprehended when patrolling for illegal activity; new education projects for schools, public awareness, Bags for Life, beach cleanup, and community development; and launching the official website, complete with interactive maps and forms where the community can report lionfish sightings and damaged or missing moorings.
Patrolling led to 79 arrests for such activities as wielding spear guns, traps and gaffs, carrying stolen dive and snorkel equipment, cutting mangroves, and creating oil spills and land fills. Of those arrested, 35 were imprisoned. According to Nic Bach and South Side Field Coordinator Licario Zepeda, those released were typically elder or underage, but who were punished through community service such as beach cleanup.
As a crucial addition to budget, the RMP found a way to capitalize on the cruise ship traffic with a stand at the Port of Roatan cruise ship dock selling Marine Park eco-store merchandise. In the initial 14 days, RMP representatives report that more than 700 cruise ship passengers were educated by staff at the stand, and revenues amassed $4,023 for RMP efforts.
Presented goals for 2010 are to increase the number of schools that participate in the RMP environmental education program, add to diving courses offered to the general community, continue building the Coral Reef Leadership Network in certifying the youth of Roatan, launch a recycling program, give support to the Fisherman’s Alliance, and complete the official declaration of the Cordelia Banks as a protected area. In addition, plans will be put into action for the licensing, training, and eradication program for controlling the lionfish population. Other possibilities include a restaurant and food awareness program.
New members elected to the Board of Directors are Enry Padilla, Santos Cruz, Trevor Brown, and Kevin Braun. Continuing members are President Alvin Jackson, Vice President Jennifer Keck, Secretary Mark Havey, Treasurer Mish Akel, and Committee Members Jenny Myton and Patty Grier. [/private]