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Honduras, Roatan: Foreign Cruisers Disrespect Local Marine Park Laws

By Sue Richards — last modified Dec 26, 2012 02:48 PM
Contributors: Fiona and Clayton of SY 'Argo' & Wayne Smith
On Thursday December 20th the Director of the Marine Park in Roatan boarded a Canadian boat named “La Pointe Gaspesienne” in West End. The crew were caught spear fishing and were suspected of poaching lobster.

Published: 2012-12-26 00:00:00
Topics: Cruising Information , Environment
Countries: Honduras

On Thursday December 20th the Director of the Marine Park in Roatan boarded a Canadian boat named “La Pointe Gaspesienne” in West End. The crew were caught spear fishing and were suspected of poaching lobster both in the West End Marine Park and earlier in the week in French Cay Harbour on the reef, next to a sign which clearly states the area is a park and a no-fishing zone.

This was clearly not a simple mistake as the cruisers in question had visited Roatan before (in both 2011 and 2012) and taken part in the active cruising community there. They were well aware of the restrictions on the taking of lobsters and conch and spear fishing. Sadly their actions will have a knock-on effect for cruisers following in their wake and the local cruising community are upset and angry following their thoughtless actions.

Cruisers DO care about local rules and the marine environment

The West End mooring field operated by the Marine Park was closed down by the local municipal government last season and they cited poaching by cruisers as one of the reasons for the closure. The West End mooring field was not only a great convenience for the cruising community, it was also an important revenue stream for the marine park and for businesses in West End Village. The park is not supported by the government and they reportedly lost about US$12k annually in mooring fees when the mooring field was shut down.

The local cruising community have been working hard to repair the misperception in the Roatan community that this is the way cruisers behave. This incident does not help the cause in re-establishing the mooring field.

Whilst cruising boats are fined (the published fine being US$500) for illegally fishing in Roatan, this does not begin to compensate for the potential damage done to the relations between cruisers and the local government by actions of this nature.

The Rules

Cruisers visiting Roatan should understand that spear fishing is not permitted by anyone, including Honduran nationals, anywhere in Roatan. (The sole exception is for taking lionfish and for that you must take a class and get a license.) Foreign nationals are not permitted to take lobster and conch at any time anywhere in Roatan, and Hondurans can only take them outside the park boundaries during the open season. Fishing is only permitted by hook and line.

Cruisers in Roatan are being encouraged to report ANY suspected poaching to the Marine Park on channel 16.

Cruisers everywhere should always check local regulations before fishing. The ramifications of illegal fishing can, as in this case, extend far beyond the individual incident.

Our thanks to Fiona and Clayton of SY 'Argo' and Wayne Smith for contributing information for this report.

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