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.
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.
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.
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
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