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Health of the Reef   by Laura Radford

Health of the Reef

Even though Roatan is the most populated and most heavily dived of the Bay Islands, it has the healthiest reef.  Much of the credit belongs to the people of Roatan, such as the owner of Anthonyís Key Resort who had the foresight to protect the reef in front of the resort.  Today, nearly all of the northwest and west ends of the island are protected as is the entire far eastern end of the island that includes three miles of mangroves extending beyond the island.

MooringsRoatan Honduras Sunset

The most popular dive sites have moorings that are shared by the islandís dive operators and the Aggressor live aboard.  The moorings allow dive boats to sit right on top off the reef without damaging it with their anchors.  On a couple of occasions my groupís dive plan had to be changed because another boat was already on the mooring we wanted.  The dive boat captains and divemasters were very good-natured and moved to another site without complaint. 

Some Causes of Damage

The reef is not without damage, however.  Some bleaching has occurred due to natural phenomenon and pollution.  Some sections of reef have died because of silting.  When mangroves are cut down, erosion occurs and the run off from the land essentially suffocates the coral, as one of the resorts discovered.  Much of the beautiful black coral has been taken to be sold as souvenirs or made into jewelry.  This practice is no longer legal and anyone found in possession of black coral at customs is going to be in for a very nasty time.

Diversí Responsibility

Of course some damage is done inadvertently by divers.   Buoyancy control is crucial as even minor contact with the reef can cause the death of years worth of growth.  Many of the dive operators require a ďcheckout diveĒ before they will take you out.  This is to ensure that your diving skills are up to snuff and to determine which sites will be most appropriate for you.  Make sure you can maintain neutral buoyancy throughout your dive and can hover at least three feet above the reef.  Anthonyís Key Resort offers buoyancy control workshops free of charge for anyone diving with them.  If preserving the reef isnít reason enough to keep off the coral, be reminded that Roatan has very large and healthy supply of stinging fire coral and fire worms.  

Reef Closures

One of the islandís top sites, Maryís Place, was becoming so damaged by divers that it was closed for a couple of years.  Fortunately the recovery was impressive and surprisingly rapid.  The success of Maryís Place has sparked discussion and it is possible that in the future other dive sites will be closed on a rotating basis.


Laura Radford is a writer and a PADI certified SCUBA Instructor.  In 1995 after completing an MFA in Creative Writing she moved from Alaska to Costa Rica where she taught diving and lead SCUBA tours.   She later returned to her home state of California where she worked as a high school English teacher. 

Currently Laura is working as a freelance writer and is traveling and diving in her free time, which is most of time.  She was drawn to Honduras by the extraordinary diving off the Bay Islands but was lured to mainland by Hondurasís natural beauty and fascinating history.

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Many thanks to Laura Radford for her articles and photos on Roatan diving and Honduras.

Laura would be glad to answer any of your Roatan diving and Honduras diving questions.  She may be reached

 

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