On a Honduran island, a community effort grows to protect its precious reefs

At seven in the morning, the sun rises over Sandy Bay on the Caribbean island of Roatán, Honduras.
Honduran island

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At seven in the morning, the sun rises over Sandy Bay on the Caribbean island of Roatán, Honduras. The soft light seeps through the mangroves and draws golden lines on the sand. Most tourists, the main source of income in the area, are still asleep. But the headquarters of BICA, the Bay Islands Conservation Association, is a hive of activity.

Egla Vidotto puts on sunscreen and a long-sleeved T-shirt. Luis Flores checks that their carrying case contains all the measuring tools. The two environmentalists follow a tight weekly program. On Tuesdays, they take water samples on the coast; on Wednesdays, they monitor, care for and repair the coral reef; on Thursdays, they reforest the mangroves. Vidotto is the coordinator of BICA’s conservation and monitoring program. Flores is a biologist from the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), doing an internship with BICA. Their attention today is focused on water quality. They plan to take samples from a dozen points around the island. It’s a task that BICA started around 10 years ago, when German development bank KfW funded its mobile laboratory — the only one on the island.

“We always go to the same places and measure the pH level, the temperature, the dissolved oxygen, the enterococci, the coliforms and the algae concentration,” Flores says. BICA inputs the information into a database that the authorities in the islands and other scientific organizations can access. “With this data, we have strong arguments to influence political decisions,” Vidotto says.

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