Supporting Communities & Coral Conservation During COVID-19

Supporting Communities & Coral Conservation During COVID-19

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As part of our Healthy Fisheries for Reefs initiative, CORAL collaborates with local communities to develop tailored income diversification projects. When communities have the skills and resources to generate income in new ways, it reduces pressure on overexploited fisheries. The result is a win-win solution: people are no longer over-reliant on a single resource, while depleted fish stocks and coral reef ecosystems get the chance to recover and thrive. Unfortunately, these alternative incomes are threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is putting coral reefs and fisheries at risk of exploitation.

One example is our work in the Honduran Bay Islands, where CORAL and representatives of the Roatán Destination Management Organization organized a bookbinding workshop to build the capacity of the Association of Artisans of Roatán, Utila and Guanaja. The workshop was generously supported by the Tiffany Foundation, and led by Arleth Rivera — a Honduran graduate of the National School of Fine Arts who specializes in book restoration and bookbinding.

Artisan workshop

While the Association was eager to begin selling and marketing their beautiful new books to tourists, unfortunately, the global coronavirus pandemic has caused an unexpected halt to all tourism operations. This is a tough hit for the women’s Association and CORAL’s partners in the Mesoamerican Region.

One of CORAL’s partners, Roatan Marine Park (RMP), is particularly affected by the pandemic. A country-wide lockdown in Honduras has shuttered the doors at RMP, an organization that relies on voluntary fees from scuba divers visiting the marine park and sales from their eco-stores. Without income from tourists visiting eco-stores and the marine park, RMP is struggling to continue funding its main program- the ranger patrols that monitor the marine protected area.

An RMP Ranger uses the SMART app on his phone to collect patrol data and make patrols in the marine park more efficient.

According to RMP, people who once depended on tourism are turning to illegal fishing practices and are creating enormous pressure on the reef. Rangers are continuing their patrols to deter illegal fishing, but RMP is only able to continue funding their operations until May.

“When people don’t have money, they go to the reef and catch anything. By the time we get people and tourism back out here, we won’t have anything to show them. We won’t have any parrotfish, any lobster and conch, we won’t have any turtles and sharks, because everything will be gone.” – RMP’s Executive Director Francis Lean.

You can support ensure healthy fisheries for reefs by helping to fund RMP’s patrols in the marine park, and you can learn how to protect coral reefs while at home in our free Earth Day Webinar. We hope to see you there!

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