A vaguely argued Roatan Municipal decision is set to displace dozens of West End visitors and remove around $200,000 a year in income from the West End economy. Roatan Marine Park also stands to lose around $20,000 yearly. With many tourists and islanders avoiding the construction zone that for the last six months has been West End, the decision comes as an added blow to tourist businesses struggling to survive.
There are two popular places to moor yachts in the Bay Islands: West End, just south of Luna Beach, known “El Bank,” and in French Key. Now the Roatan Municipality is trying to close one of them. In a March 7 letter to Roatan Marine Park, the Municipality of Roatan announced that it had “suspended the use of ‘El Bank’ for the moorings of sailboats.”
A Municipal document quotes Municipal Council member Javier Brooks as saying that El Bank is not an appropriate place for mooring sailboats. Brooks suggested that “the sailboats move to other marinas that have always existed.” Mayor Julio Galindo supported the motion. “Because of the sailboats there are no more turtles in this sector. … It was commented to me that at night the sailboat people spearfish and they buy nothing from the community,” the official document has Mayor Julio Galindo testifying.
The motion introduced on December 29, 2011, was put to vote without providing the Marine Park or the yacht owners residing in El Bank with an opportunity to express their opinions. Nor did Roatan Municipality make proper due diligence, investigate the accuracy of testimony or analyze the real economic and environmental situation. Nevertheless, the motion was unanimously accepted by corporation members.
Nick Bach of Roatan Marine Park argues that the yachts are good not only for West End’s economy but also for local marine life. His statements are supported by Paula Pastushin, owner of the sailboat S/V Hooligan moored at El Bank, who conducted a survey of yacht owners. Based on her survey of ten out of the twenty or so boats moored at El Bank, Pastushin estimated that the 20 boats spend around $14,000 a month on groceries, $9,200 in restaurants and bars, and additional moneys spent on transport and souvenir shops. This averages to $24,000 per month or $288,000 a year.
For the Marine Park, the banishment of sailboats would mean a loss of significant income, as they collect a monthly fee of $100 from each boat moored in West End.
“There has been a decrease in the poaching of game by cruisers because of the ‘Mooring Host’ presence,” writes Pastushin, adding that the permanent yacht population also spends money in electrical shops, dental and medical clinics, etc. [/private]