$25,000 Matching Grant to Expand MAR Projects
In 2007, CORAL and its partners in Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala established the first-ever voluntary standards for sustainable marine recreation in the MAR. Building consensus among governments in four countries plus local community members, marine recreation operators, and marine park managers was no small feat. To take advantage of the forward momentum, CORAL is building on the standards project to develop new conservation programs in its Caribbean project sites.
According to CORAL program manager Rich Wilson, "After years of hard work developing the voluntary marine recreation standards, we’re starting to see new working alliances between recreational tour operators, marine park managers, and government officials throughout the MAR region. This is an exciting development, but our ongoing conservation efforts will require a substantial investment of resources to ensure healthy coral reefs in years to come."
CORAL recently graduated the first class of the CORAL Reef Leadership Network training program. The program is designed to teach local tour operators how to train others in environmentally sustainable marine recreation practices. This initial training program was so well received that Cozumel's federal parks authority in partnership with tour operators have asked CORAL to provide CORAL Reef Leadership training to 1,200 local tour guides who operate in the marine park.
In partnership with leaders from the marine tourism sector and the Belize tourism board, CORAL is working with the Belize Ministry of Tourism to transform the voluntary marine recreation standards into law. Additionally, CORAL is facilitating a national mooring buoy program that will significantly reduce anchor damage to the reef.
CORAL recently launched a full-fledged program in collaboration with the Sandy Bay-West End Marine Park and local community members on the island of Roatan to continue its efforts at building marine park infrastructure, increasing patrols, and strengthening government and community support for this locally managed marine area.
CORAL's success with the voluntary standards project along the MAR has earned good will for the organization. But cruise tourism is expanding at phenomenal rates, which puts extraordinary pressure on this sensitive reef ecosystem. Unsustainable fishing and poaching continue in the marine parks, and coastal development is still unchecked in some locations. The $25,000 matching grant will go a long way toward moving CORAL’s targeted conservation projects in the region forward in a significant way.
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