Roatan Marine Park
Non-Government Organization (NGO)
The Marine Park works as a Non-Government Organization (NGO). It operates primarily out of the fees it collects from its membership base. That money goes directly into Marine Park programs. Visitors to Roatan can help financially by becoming members of the Marine Park. Visitors can also help by not touching the reef when they go out on a dive, and by not standing on the reef when out snorkeling.
Learn more about the Marin Park Program:
- Protected Habitat
- Management Scheme
- Biodiversity Communities
- Project Objectives
- Conservation Zones
Marine Park Overview
Protection of the Reef
Roatan is sheltered by the second largest living coral reef in the world; it’s called the Mesoamerican Reef System. Here on the island of Roatan, protection of this international treasure is entrusted to the Roatan Marine Park.
Location of the Reef
The Mesoamerican Reef System starts from Quintana Roo in Mexico, and it comes all the way down past Belize, past the little nook of Guatemala and onto the northern coast of Honduras. It’s the second largest barrier reef in the world. The reef covers more than 1,000 kilometers of coastline and is home to endangered marine turtles, more than 500 fish species and over 60 different types of coral.
What grows on the Reef?
Every single square inch of that reef has something going on. Everything there is alive. Not just little creatures like crabs and shrimp and lobster, but that piece of coral is a living organism that breathes and multiplies every year. Coral is both an animal and a plant. It has a stomach. It has a mouth. It has polyps that create a colony. Inside those polyps live micro-algae called zooxanthellae and they work just like a plant. They go through photosynthesis, they commute sugar, and they provide the coral with 80% of its nutrients. That’s the color that you see in coral. When you see this colorful rock, this colorful rock is not only an animal, but it’s also a plant. It’s the most amazing organism that’s in the ocean. The Biodiversity of the marine park is second to none.
Marine Life on the Reef
Thousands of tourists visit Roatan each year, drawn by the opportunity to dive and snorkel on what is arguably the most outstanding reef formation in the world. Unfortunately, these activities threaten the very resources upon which they depend, particularly coral. If you look at something and you think, oh well, there’s nothing growing there, if you look closer, there’s something growing everywhere out there. It’s extraordinary. On occasion, snorkelers go out to the reef, and they stand on it maybe because they need to adjust their masks. But if someone were to say to them “Stay off the coral!” Some might respond: “Oh no, there’s nothing here, it just rocks.” But that is not the case. Everything out there is covered in life. It’s amazing. From enormous Whale sharks to tiny Sea Horses, the Mesoamerican reef system is home to a stunning variety of marine life.
Roatan has got a lot of fish. The clouds of Blue Tang that we get are so wonderful, and they all feed at the same time. It common to see them coming across the reef, and it seems like they communicate with each other, and suddenly all dive down and feed and then set off again all as one group. Eagle Rays are a local favorite; they’re fantastic and majestic in how they carry through the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. Eagle Rays are magnificent, beautiful, and they’re serene creatures. These creatures pass peacefully over the reef wall, and they are always a favorite sighting to for divers.
Roatan Endangered Turtles
Roatan has a healthy population of turtles, which are endangered. But they seem to be making a comeback in the waters around Roatan. In general, Roatan is not known for the big things, so you’re not going to see big sharks or mantas, but you are going to see lots of little things. Lots of nudibranchs, different types of coral, you’ll see all the sponges, bluebell tunicates. You need to have an eye, and you need to go slow to see. If you go quickly, you’ll miss most of the beauty on Roatan's reef.
- Types of Turtles
- Printable Info-graph
- Fun Factoid on Turtles
Marine Park Purpose
The Marine Park Function
The dedicated men and women of the Roatan Marine Park work hard to protect this fragile island’s most precious natural resource. It’s a big job, and one they take very seriously. The Roatan Marine Park came about as a result of local people who have been around the reef for well over 30 years, saw reef when it was in really good conditions and then saw the reef begin to deteriorate. The Roatan Marin Park was formed to help combat the damage from a growing number of visitors to the island of Roatan. Today, the Roatan Marine Park organization has grown in its membership and presence around the island of Roatan. It’s pretty big; it’s pretty strong and more and more members are coming on. More and more of the diving communities are backing the efforts put forward by the marine park. The Marine Park is responsible for all of the marine infrastructure in the marine protected area. So, the mooring lines, the channel markers, the things that keep people safe going in and out of the reef day and night.
LOCAL OUTREACH and Support
The Marine Park is gaining ground and earning widespread support from local businesses and government officials. Education is key to a lot of what needs to get done around the reef. For this reason, the Marine Park educates the community on an ongoing basis. And it's paying off. People are starting to pay attention, and the organization is finding more and more volunteers, local people who have stepped up and said, "yeah, let’s do this". In ten years from now; Roatan will be in a better place because more people will realize that they can reduce the negative impact they have on the reef. The Roatan Marin Park has always requested that If you’re enjoying your visit to Roatan, then please do your part to protect the extraordinary reef around the Bay Islands. And of course, visitors can always stop by the Marine Park office in West End to pick up a few souvenirs for friends and family back home.