Befire I start telling you about my recent field work, I want to acknowledge the Crawford Fund, who helped pay for my field trip to Honduras. The Crawford Fund is a non-profit, non-governmental organization focused on agricultural and food security research and training in developing world countries. In 2017 I was awarded an international travel award from the Western Australian Crawford Fund Committee in order to help me gain experience and expertise working in fisheries sustainability in Honduras. As part of this project, I focused on the Honduras lobster fishery and the activities being done by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and local organizations as part of the fishery improvement project.
My first stop in Honduras to learn about the lobster industry was Roatán, the middle of the the three main Bay Islands off the north coast of Honduras. This island is known for its diving, and dive resorts line the street in West End, where I was based for my week-long visit. These resorts cater to die had divers and their families making it a bit more expensive and therefore exclusive, so you can escape a lot of the backpackers and party scene going down on its neighbor island, Útila.
I rented a car for my trip so I could easily get around the large island without having to rely on taxis. While there, I was able to talk with a lot of the local NGOs who focus on monitoring and protecting the local coral and marine communities. Roatán is part of the Bay Islands National Marine Park, which is co-managed by a number of groups through out the Islands. There is also a local Roatán Marine Park that is managed by a local organization of the same name (you can find their office on the main strip in West End). These groups do great work around the Islands through their education programs, monitoring and also work with the government to protect the region. I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful the snorkeling was right off the beach in Half Moon Bay, and the fact that most of the time I was the only one out enjoying the underwater view. Each side of the Bay is completely different, so make sure you check them both out! On the western side enter straight from the beach behind the church and swim out along the coast, from the east side you can access the reef from one of the resorts, I went in off Ecodivers Roatán.
The island is also home to part of the industrial lobster fishing fleet. Most (if not all) of the boats in Roatán use wooden traps to catch lobster on the distant fishing grounds a few hundred miles east of the island. In Honduras, each boat is permitted to use 2500 traps to catch lobster during the season, which runs from July through February each year. Lobster tails are then sold to processors who repackage the tails and export them primarily to the US market. While I was here I was able to speak with some of the main lobster boat owners and packing plants in French Harbour, although few were aware of the improvement project underway in the fishery.
Other areas of interest in Roatán that I visited are Punta Gorda, a Garifuna community in the east end that celebrates each Sunday with drumming and dancing. I also had a wonderful snorkel at West Bay along the wall. West End is a great place to visit since there are lots of restaurants and bars, and of course lots of dive options. I will definitely be back with the hubby on holiday so I can enjoy some of the fun without having to work!