By Jennie Lay
Source: Scuba Diving Magazine, 12/05
Roatan's local divers aren't waiting around to see how construction, cruise ships and surging tourism will shape their underwater paradise. With a grassroots revival of the 15-year-old Sandy Bay and West End Marine Park, dive shop owners and divemasters are taking reef protection into their own hands. "No one was looking after the reef," says marine park re-organizer Mish Akel. "There was massive poaching going on unchecked, anchoring and dumping of waste from yachts."
The Sandy Bay and West End Marine Park shelters the stunning reef along Roatan's most heavily used stretch of coastline -- including West Bay, West End and Sandy Bay. Volunteers, dive shop dues and a $4,000 jump start from the Coral Reef Alliance have outfitted the park with patrol boats, staff and signage. Future goals include reef education in Roatan schools, mooring upgrades and stronger marine protection laws.
Two boats staffed with marine park guards and Honduran police have been patrolling the reef since January . Guarding Roatan's sprawling reef is a hefty job, but much progress has been made: in fact, park organizers estimate that 95 percent of the poaching has already stopped.