It’s well before dawn and Barie Jackson is already hard at work. Barie is the Patrol Coordinator at the Roatan Marine Park (RMP) in Honduras, and this morning he’s racing down a ten kilometer stretch of coastline in search of reported spear fishers off the island’s western end.
Roatan is the largest of Honduras’ Bay Islands. The once little-known destination has seen independent tourism skyrocket and cruise ship visitation more than quadruple over the past decade, overwhelming the island’s infrastructure and stressing the fragile ecosystem. That’s why protected areas like the Sandy Bay-West End Marine Reserve, which encompasses about twenty square kilometers (nearly eight square miles) of Roatan’s nearshore waters, are so critical.
Four full-time park rangers regularly patrol Roatan's protected areas. These patrol officers partner with national police to prevent illegal fishing, avert mangrove damage from coastal development, and ensure the safety of marine recreational users. “The police provide our patrols with the muscle to enforce the regulations,” explains Barie.
Born and raised on Roatan, Barie’s instincts for this kind of work are spot-on. He’s innately aware of the favorite haunts for marine critters as well as illegal fishers. As a young child, he dreamed of becoming a police officer, drawn to the order, execution, and level of respect associated with the position. Now, Barie says, he’s found his "dream job." As a park ranger with the RMP, he is able to interact with people, uphold the law, and protect the place he grew up.
Thanks to several recent grants from CORAL, Barie and his team have a new suite of tools to help them protect the preserve’s underwater ecosystem. At the end of 2011, the RMP staff partnered with marine protected area management experts—including CORAL—to renovate the RMP’s patrol system. The team created a host of new tools ranging from a quick reference waterproof guide to Honduran marine law, to case-specific reporting forms, and a comprehensive electronic database of criminal activities within the park. Additionally, the patrol team is now equipped with four fully operational boats, as well as a spare engine to reduce down-time. These new resources allow the four patrol officers to more effectively monitor three key areas: Sandy Bay-West End Marine Reserve, Cordelia Banks, and a ten kilometer stretch between Dixon Cove and Jonesville.
“The new materials have helped greatly in training new officers and Park Rangers,” says Barie. “They are also extremely useful when informing tourists or suspects of regulations.”
According to Nic Bach, Director of Communications and Marine Infrastructure for the RMP, access to these resources assists both RMP’s patrol team—and the national police they partner with—in more effectively monitoring Roatan’s waters. “The new management resources and expanded patrol fleet help us better understand and enforce the rules and regulations governing the RMP, and better communicate with the police and other parties involved,” he states.
The comprehensive management system, supported by access to necessary resources such as boats, is a replicable model for successful stewardship of marine protected areas along the Mesoamerican Reef. Thank you for your support of this project!
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Asst. Director of Development