Utila NGOs Join to Educate Visitors
A consortium of Utila-based conservation organizations collaborated to distribute posters to island businesses in early June to encourage tourists to minimize their impact on the local environment. The effort was inspired by the Roatan Marine Park banners that greet visitors to Roatan.
The project was funded by the Utila Conservation Fund (UCF), which is a partnership among the Utila Municipal Government, Coral Reef Alliance, Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA), the Iguana Station and the Whale Shark Oceanic and Research Center (WSORC).
The posters inform visitors that they are entering a unique and special place and need to be aware of and responsible for their actions and their impact on the surrounding environment. The UCF hopes the campaign will generate a sense of ownership and empowerment within the local community, encouraging people to protect what they have that people from around the world are coming to see.
“Not everybody who visits the Bay Islands is a marine biologist,” said Lucie Brown, director of WSORC. “They may not be aware that a coral reef is alive and that by touching it you are causing damage.”
Brown said the posters also aimed to educate tourists about eco-friendly practices, such as not taking plastic bags from shops, reusing or refusing plastic cups from bars and not buying products made from endangered species. They provide guidelines and advice on diving on the coral reef, how to act when encountering whale sharks and protecting sea turtle nesting grounds and mangroves.
The posters, designed by Naomi Gittoes, have been well received around Utila Town, according to Brown.
Jennifer Orrange contributed the information for this article.