Archives

Honduras – MPA Design


Supporting and Managing Resilient Systems in the Bay Islands, Honduras

Location
Cordelia Banks, Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras

The Challenge
Cordelia Banks is located on the southwest coast of Roatán in the Honduran Bay Islands. It sits between two cruise docks, as well as the two largest towns in the Islands, Coxen Hole and French Harbour. Cordelia Banks is made up of three large coralline banks covered extensively by staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) colonies. The abundance of this species has been reduced by 98% within the Caribbean, becoming critically endangered as defined by CITES. Smith Bank, the most studied of the 3 banks, has an approximate area of 52 acres, and could possibly be the largest patch of A. cervicornis within the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. It is an important source of coral spawn, critical because it can help to repopulate reefs of the Caribbean where Staghorn has already disappeared. The area has been identified as a spawning aggregation site for groupers and snappers, and hosts a healthy community of Caribbean gray reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezii).

Staghorn coral and diver. Photo © Dano Pendygrasse

Staghorn coral and diver. © Dano Pendygrasse

An Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment has been carried out (almost) every two years since 2006. The findings have shown that Cordelia Banks boasts a staggering 70% live coral cover (in certain study sites). This is the largest coral cover ever recorded by this methodology in over 800 sites Mesoamerican wide. The methodology was reviewed and adjusted by the authors in order to effectively measure and quantify the coral colonies as dense as those found in Cordelia Bank. Cordelia’s biological importance, as well as the threats it faces, makes its complete protection an urgent matter. The effects of coastal development have increased due to the natural attractions of Roatán and the increase in tourism-related investment. Several populated towns also have an indirect influence over Cordelia Banks. It is also located within maritime transport and cruise ship routes, which could easily increase pressure on this fragile ecosystem.

Actions Taken
In 2009, WWF worked with the Roatán Marine Park (RMP) and Luna Environmental Consulting to develop a technical paper describing the ecological significance of the area proposed for protection, which provided the foundation for the next phase of work funded by the Ocean Fund. This document included a Technical Data Sheet about the importance of Cordelia Bank, Rationale for the Request to Declare Cordelia Banks a Site of Wildlife Importance, and the management objectives to promote it as marine protected area (MPA).

The government issued the official declaration for the Honduran Bay Islands National Marine Park (in Spanish) in June 2010. This declaration created a marine park encompassing the coasts and marine waters surrounding all three of the Bay Islands (Roatán, Utila, and Guanaja). The Bay Islands National Marine Park area covers 6,471.5 km2.

Cordelia was declared as a Site of Wildlife Importance by the Protected Areas Department within the Forestry Conservation Institute on May 2012, and covers an area of 17 km2. The management plan was developed to fit within the framework of the Bay Islands National Marine Park, and was approved in September 2013.

Caribbean gray reef shark. © Antonio Busiello

Caribbean gray reef shark. © Antonio Busiello

Three main strategies are underway to build effective conservation for the Park:

  1. Support organizing and strengthening departmental, municipal and local advisory councils, specifically those concerning Cordelia Banks, utilizing partnerships with community advisory councils.
  2. Raise public awareness of the Forestry Law, Protected Areas Act, General Regulations and Special Law of the Bay Islands among Cordelia Banks stakeholders, utilizing partnerships with community advisory councils.
  3. Share the regulations contained in the management plan, with local stakeholders, in order to reduce illegal activities and foster community involvement in the management.

Community Advisory Councils
The community advisory councils are a community-based participation, consultation and support platform to the Protected Areas Department within the Forestry Conservation Institute (ICF) and municipalities to manage the natural resources, protected areas (PAs), forest areas and wildlife as stated in the Forestry Law. The councils are key participants in the design and support to the development of the Management Plan for the Bay Islands National Marine Park. Each Community Advisory Council includes representatives of the organizations such as: Patronatos (community councils), water boards, community tourism groups, school boards, fishers organizations or representatives, and other social and productive organizations in the communities that border and/or are within the protected areas.

These councils were created to support all protected areas in the country. PAs and MPAs in Honduras are created by the central government, but the entities in charge of managing them are NGOs, who sign a co-management agreement with ICF and these should have municipal oversight. In reality, ICF is minimally involved, and relations with the local municipal governments are mostly non-existent. There is also no source of federal funding to manage these areas, and NGOs have to turn to imaginative ways of raising operative funds. Councils were thought of as a way to foster more local involvement in the management of PAs, thereby creating more buy-in from this important stakeholder. There have been several cases where protected areas have been declared without ever consulting the local populations, and as such, these have never been respected.

Additionally, training has been conducted, along with capacity building for the Community Advisory Councils on aspects related to the socialization of the Protected Areas Law in the preparation of the Management Plan for Bay Islands National Marine Park. A trip was held for government representatives (Minister and Congress) to Cordelia Banks to celebrate the declaration of the site as one of Wildlife Importance. Cordelia Banks is also managed as a Marine Sanctuary for Sharks (Honduras and Palau Islands are the only two countries in the world where it illegal to fish sharks and sell any of their by-products). Finally, Community Marine Reserves or no-take zones have been established in coordination with the fishermen’s associations and the Community Advisory Councils. The no-take zone has been established within Cordelia Banks in the zoning chapter of the Management Plan.

How successful has it been?
The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) and the Roatán Marine Park (RMP) applied for a grant to Ocean Fund to acquire a patrol boat for the area. This boat was launched on June of 2012. Roatán Marine Park, with a park Ranger and a National Policeman onboard, coordinates patrolling activities.

CORAL funded a fisheries survey/assessment, carried out by Centro de Estudios Marinos’ Steve Canty. This information was very helpful in the creation of the management plan, as it allowed identifying key players within the fishing community. These stakeholders were invited to help create the no-take zone, during the meetings to write up the management plan. TNC, with USAID funding, organized these fishermen into a legal organization.

Healthy Honduran reef © Ian Drysdale

Healthy Honduran reef. © Ian Drysdale

The zoning will soon be a reality with the installation of buoys. These are being installed by a joint effort carried out by CORAL, RMP and Healthy Reefs Initiative (HRI), with funding from Port of Roatán.

The biological monitoring of the area is being done in several different ways. Reef health is defined using the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) protocol and HRI’s Simplified Integrated Reef Health Index (SIRHI), alongside many other local organizations. Coral spawning and a grouper/snapper spawning/aggregation site are also monitored on the right phases of the moon.

Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Lessons learned and key recommendations include:

  • With the Ocean Fund Grant, WWF was able to engage the local communities to move forward, after the legal declaration of the Bay Islands National Marine Park. Without WWF’s involvement, as well as ICF, Honduras Directorate General of Fisheries and Aquaculture, and CORAL, the Cordelia Banks advisory council would not have become active and would have remained another amazing idea on paper.
  • Consolidating the advisory councils was a necessary step prior to designing the management plans, as these are usually the users of the resources contained in these protected areas.
  • The Ocean Fund was catalytic to assuring the long-term legal status and conservation of Cordelia Banks by setting the stage for successfully designing the management plan.
  • Involving the local fishermen in the creation of the management plan was a key element in defining the no-take zone, as well as identifying the sites to install fishing moorings.
  • AGRRA and HRI’s SIHRI was a valuable tool that helped identify the biological importance of the site, based on the outstanding coral cover found.
  • ‪CORAL has been leading the discussion about the development of a Bay Islands Conservation Fund. Working with government officials, CORAL has facilitated several meetings to determine the use of mitigation funds that otherwise would not be accessible for the ongoing management of marine protected areas in the Bay Islands (mitigation monies would simply roll over into a general fund). This new conservation fund would shore up long-term sustainable financing for Cordelia Banks and the Bay Islands (a minimum of $75,000 per year for 30 years is identified as mitigation for maintenance activities of the cruise ship docks).
  • Engaging the private sector created a win-win situation that fostered collaboration between all stakeholders: the private sector needed to comply with requisites contained in their Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA); the local organizations needed funding to create an applicable and consulted management plan.


Funding Summary
World Wildlife Fund
Oak Foundation
Summit Foundation
Coral Reef Alliance
The Nature Conservancy
Ocean Fund
MAR Fund
Roatán Marine Park
The Pew Charitable Trusts
Port of Roatán

Lead Organizations
Healthy Reefs Initiative
Coral Reef Alliance

Partners
Healthy Reefs Initiative
WWF-Mexico/Mesoamerican Reef
Roatán Marine Park
Coral Reef Alliance
The Nature Conservancy
Port of Roatán

Resources
Cordelia Banks – Jewel of the Meso-American Reef (video)
Cordelia Banks- Acropora Heaven (video)
WWF Report: Coral Reef Protection in Cordelia Banks (pdf)
Cordelia Banks Info Sheet (pdf)
Technical Paper (pdf, Spanish)
Information on Honduran Protected Areas (pdf, Spanish)
Cordelia Banks Management Plan (pdf, Spanish)

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

Bonaire – Land-Based Pollution


Wastewater Treatment and Fishing Legislation in Bonaire

Location
Bonaire National Marine Park, Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles

The Challenge
Collectively, the island of Bonaire and the Ramsar areas of several satellite islands (Klein Bonaire and Lac) form the Bonaire National Marine Park (BNMP). The park encompasses 2,700 hectares of fringing coral reef, seagrass and mangrove ecosystems and contains diverse habitats from the shore to intertidal environments, and from coral reefs to deep water environments.

Bonaire1, caption: Bonaire National Marine Park contains diverse coral reef habitats. Photo © J.P. Carnevale

Bonaire National Marine Park contains diverse coral reef habitats. © J.P. Carnevale

Bleaching and hurricane events have affected this area in the past. Only mild bleaching occurred in association with the 1998 El Niño bleaching event, resulting in good recovery. In 1999, Hurricane Lenny affected the shallow reefs of the leeward side of Bonaire and Klein Bonaire; however recovery was similarly high, with recruitment rates 3.5 times higher than the rest of the Caribbean, and high survival rates. More recently, the 2005 and 2006 bleaching events resulted in bleaching of approximately 9% and 10%, respectively. However, in both events the recovery rate after the thermal stress subsided was almost 100%. After a bleaching event in 2010, 10% of corals bleached and died leading to a sharp decline in coral abundance in 2011. Combined with losses of herbivorous parrotfish to overfishing, this has led to an increase of macroalgae.

Aside from these natural disturbances, this region is threatened by pollution, coastal development, invasive species (lionfish and halophila seagrass) and growth in tourism activities.

Actions Taken
The mission of the Bonaire National Marine Park is to protect and manage the island’s natural, cultural and historical resources, while allowing ecologically sustainable use for the benefit of future generations. The BNMP strongly believes that the first step to ensure healthy and resilient corals is to protect water quality and reduce all stresses. Within this framework, the BNMP has been taking different conservation and management actions to address the distinct problems of overfishing, coastal development, pollution, and negative impacts of tourism.

Constructing the wastewater treatment plant. © Jan Jaap van Almenkerk

Constructing the wastewater treatment plant. © Jan Jaap van Almenkerk

In 2010, legislation was passed to improve environmental protection, and as of 2014 was still in place and starting to show improvements in the environment. The legislation includes protection of identified resilience factors like: full protection of herbivorous fishes, full protection of many carnivorous fishes, and stronger rules and regulations on fisheries. The new legislation also includes improvements in procedures for coastal construction and more stringent construction guidelines.

Overfishing
To address the documented decline in predator fishes like groupers, grunts and snappers, the BNMP started lobbying the government and different stakeholders in 2004 to create fish protected areas (FPAs). Within this lobbying work, a group of fishermen, dive operators, government officers and others stakeholders from St. Lucia visited Bonaire to explain to their counterparts how FPAs in Bonaire would benefit both fisherman and tourism operators. A few months later a group of fishermen, government officers, BNMP Rangers and tour operators visited St. Lucia with the same purpose. In 2008, after intensive negotiations, two FPAs were established on the leeward side on Bonaire, encompassing approximately 4 km of a no-take zone. In 2010 the harvest of parrotfish and use of fish traps were banned.

Coastal Development and Pollution
In addition to fishing pressures, Bonaire is experiencing rapid coastal development. To minimize the impact of construction practices, the BNMP developed an officially approved booklet of Construction Guidelines, together with the Department of Physical Planning, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the local waste management company, construction companies, land owners, developers, and local NGOs. The BNMP ran an intensive nutrient monitoring program during 2006-2008, and Nov. 2011- May 2013 that covered the entire leeside of Bonaire and all around Klein Bonaire. This nutrient monitoring program was run in cooperation with the Central Government, the Department of Physical Planning of Bonaire and the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Florida. Preliminary data show that the levels of dissolved nitrogen are high and that the most probable cause is due to sewage and unsustainable irrigation practices in the coastal zone. To mitigate this sewage water input to the sea, the BNMP worked with resort operators to establish “water balances,” and to improve fresh water and waste water management. This work has ended with the establishment of a local sewer system.

With over four years of nutrient monitoring data indicating high levels of nutrients in the area, a wastewater treatment facility is under construction. The facility plant is designed to move wastewater away from the shoreline and is anticipated to be in operation by late 2014. A temporary plant is in place and has been operating since 2011 while construction continues on the main plant.

Bonaire3, caption: Bonaire National Marine Park's coral reef habitats are threatened by over-fishing, pollution, coastal development, tourism, and bleaching events. Photo © BNMP

Bonaire National Marine Park’s coral reef habitats are threatened by over-fishing, pollution, coastal development, tourism, and bleaching events. © BNMP

Tourism
Dive tourism is an essential component of the economy of Bonaire, generating significant income and creating employment, and it is vital that dive operators and their clients are well educated about potential negative impacts and means of reducing them. In 2008, the BNMP developed a “Reef Ranger” course. This course has been mandatory since 2010 but not yet fully implemented. The goal of this program is to maximize active support for coral reef conservation by providing standardized training for dive staff, tailored to local circumstances. BNMP recognized that dive operators and divers can be natural ambassadors for coral reef conservation since they have a vested interest in maintaining healthy and diverse marine ecosystems.

Effective communication is also a fundamental goal of Stichting Nationale Pareken (STINAPA) Bonaire, which successfully manages two nature parks of Bonaire National Marine Park and Washington Slagbaai National Park. Communication with the general public and stakeholder groups is a main priority for the BNMP, prompted by a group of residents who indicated a decrease of awareness and involvement, and no sense of ownership of the BNMP. As a result, an on-going communication campaign titled “Nature is our livelihood,” was developed to provide knowledge and change attitudes about conservation issues. Providing adequate information concerning the importance of nature conservation and the sustainable development of Bonaire was considered of utmost importance. The campaign has been successful in some areas and is currently undergoing an evaluation.

How successful has it been?

Overfishing
Monitoring has taken place regularly since 2003 in Bonaire. The ban on fishing of parrotfish (and use of fish traps) has led to an increase in parrotfish population density and biomass after 2011, and, despite a decrease in coral abundance due to bleaching, coral cover began to increase again (while macroalgae cover decreased) in 2013. Perhaps due to an increase in predation, Diadema urchin populations have decreased.

Coastal Development and Pollution
A temporary water treatment plant was built on Bonaire and began operation in late 2011, and a second will be in operation in late 2014. It is estimated that a total of 17.5 to 35 tons of nitrogen a year will be removed from waste water. However, recent nutrient monitoring in late 2013 showed that water quality indicators on the west coast of Bonaire signal eutrophic conditions, though levels of nitrogen have been decreasing slightly. Some sampled sites had high levels of fecal bacteria numbers, and increasing levels of phosphorous. Generally, sampling has showed a slight improvement since 06-08 values, but nutrients remain at threshold levels.

Tourism
A strong conservation ethic persists in Bonaire, mainly due to the large revenue from tourism focused on SCUBA diving and snorkeling. The focus of this environmental work has been on local people rather than tourism, although tourism has increased in the last few years.

Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Lessons learned and some key recommendations include:

  • Involvement of key stakeholders is critical. No conservation plan will succeed long term without complete support of interested parties.
  • Involve all stakeholders from the beginning; demonstrate that what you want to implement (with their help) has unique value, and that they are the beneficiaries of this plan/action.
  • Set up an implementation plan (simple is better), discuss it with the stakeholders when ready make it public, and follow it step-by-step with little improvisation.
  • Once the plan is implemented, inform stakeholders about news of progress as well as failures. Transparency is critical!
  • Create clear rules, laws and procedures. People are more willing to support what they understand and trust.
  • Communication campaigns can help provide updated information to the general public and government officers.
  • The development of Integrated Coastal Management can reduce the amount of stressors on the reef to improve resilience to future climate change.
  • The development of a course similar to the “Reef Ranger” program can improve the sustainable practices of reef divers and other water sport practitioners.

Funding Summary

Lead Organizations
Bonaire National Marine Park

Partners
Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment
Ministry of Economic Affairs
DROB—NMB (Local environmental planning department)
Sea Turtle Conservation of Bonaire
Council of Underwater Resource Operators
The Nature Conservancy
WWF-Netherlands

Resources
Bonaire construction guidelines formulated by the BNMP, Department of Physical Planning, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the local waste management company, construction companies, land owners, developers, and local NGOs.

Results of the nutrient monitoring program, conducted in cooperation with the Central Government, the Department of Physical Planning of Bonaire, and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution.

Bonaire National Marine Park Management
Coral Reef Resilience Assessment of the Bonaire National Marine Park (pdf)
Status and Trends of Bonaire’s Reefs in 2013: Causes for Optimism

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

Adaptive Comanagement of a Marine Protected Area Network in Fiji

Adaptive management is an iterative process by which management strategies are adjusted with new information. Although there are calls for adaptive management, few on-the-ground examples of success in conservation planning and MPA network design exist. This article describes a nine year adaptive comanagement process of an MPA network in Kubulan District, Fiji, where adaptive management is being used to revise MPA boundaries based on new science on coral reef resilience to climate change.

In Fiji, locally managed marine areas (LMMAs) have been established by 400 villages. Fiji has a diverse range of management strategies including fisheries management areas, managed fisheries closures, and no-take areas. The authors provide an informative table on how they used resilience principles in adapting their current MPA network management and design.

To increase resilience to climate change, the MPA network was adapted to include critical areas and a broader representation of reef types. Communities supported this because they believe that climate change is a threat to their reef resources. Since the no-take MPA already included reefs which have the most resilience potential, there was no change to no-take areas.

The authors believe that the communities were willing to increase management areas due to attitudes about current protected areas, perceptions of fisheries benefits, and income from a dive fee program.

Author: Weeks, R. and S.D. Jupiter
Year: 2013
View Full Article

Conservation Biology 27(6): 1234–1244. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12153

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

Are U.S. Coral Reefs on the Slippery Slope to Slime?

This article has received significant attention from researchers, managers, and the public. It is a bit controversial and the doom and gloom picture presented may or may not most accurately describe the current state of affairs. Regardless, the paper draws attention to issues of coral reef decline as part of Science’s Policy Forum. The author’s vision of how to reverse coral reef decline in the United States requires addressing multiple threats at the same time. Numerous responses to this paper are available in the 17 June 2005 Science issue (Volume 308).

Author: Pandolfi, J. M., J.B.C. Jackson, N. Baron, R.H. Bradbury, H.M. Guzman, T.P. Hughes, C.V. Kappel, F. Micheli, J.C. Ogden, H.P. Possingham, and E. Sala
Year: 2005
View Full Article

Science 307: 1725-1726. doi: 10.1126/science.1104258

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

Preparing to Manage Coral Reefs for Ocean Acidification: Lessons from Coral Bleaching

The authors examine the lessons learned from the implementation of management strategies to address the impacts of coral reef bleaching and how these strategies may be modified to address the impacts of ocean acidification. Because stabilizing CO2 emissions is the most critical need to address ocean acidification, and this is out of the scope of reef managers’ jobs, it is important to manage for local stressors and protect resilient areas.

The authors have several recommendations: First, because evidence suggests local-scale processes and local stressors have more impact on ocean chemistry, it is important to manage for local stressors (such as land-based sources of pollution and over-fishing). Second, the priority areas to protect include the most resilient, least vulnerable sites. These sites may already be adapted to large variations in pH, may have surrounding seagrass beds, or be connected to “source reefs” to maximize larval influx. Finally the authors recommend further research into the impacts of lowered pH on reef species and on how local and regional processes can affect ocean chemistry.

Author: McLeod, E., K.R.N. Anthony, A. Andersson, R. Beeden, Y. Golbuu, J. Kleypas, K. Kroeker, D. Manzello, R.V. Salm, H. Schuttenberg, and J.E. Smith 
Year: 2013
View Full Article

Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11:20-27. doi:10.1890/110240

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

Human and Coral Reef Use Interactions: From Impacts to Solutions?

This article reviews current scientific preferences in coral reef research to determine if information needed to solve problems associated with coral reef and reef fisheries persistence is being generated. The review finds that recommendations for reef management are limited to eliminating or reducing impacts, reducing human populations and effort, and creating no-take MPAs, and that these solutions are rarely investigated for their social tradeoffs or complexities.

The review found that most scientific efforts focus on ecological impacts of global and anthropogenic stresses (250 articles in a Scopus search) rather than problem solving or solutions to threats posed to coral reef conservation (16 journal articles in the same Scopus search replacing the word ‘impact’ with ‘solution’).

By examining the current literature for several factors including social-ecological impacts, management restrictions, values and tradeoffs, the review calls for more solution-oriented research and gives recommendations in order to generate increased engagement in problem solving impact-related scientific careers.

Author: McClanahan, T.R.
Year: 2011
View Full Article

Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 408: 3-10. doi: 10.1016/j.jembe.2011.07.021

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

Assessing Environmental Damage to Marine Protected Area: A Case of Perhentian Marine Park in Malaysia

Tourism (including diving, snorkeling, swimming and recreational fishing) in and around Perhentian Marine Park on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia is having a negative impact on coral reefs. The authors of this article looked at the most harmful activities that are threatening these ecosystems to guide more effective planning and management.

According to local stakeholders, the activities that are the most harmful to marine habitats in the MPA are littering, discarding fishing equipment, excess fishing, and damage due to too many divers. The researchers make the following recommendations to ensure more protection for coral reefs: reduce and regulate use of coral reefs for tourism activities, conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of land based development activities to determine marine ecosystem impacts, increase effective coordination between agencies and local stakeholders (including fishers), and provide education activities for local communities about the importance of protecting coral reef ecosystems.

Author: Islam, G.M.N., K.M. Noh, T.S. Yew, and A.F.M. Noh
Year: 2013
View Abstract

Journal of Agricultural Science 5(8): 132-141

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone