[Coral-List] Utila Reef Health and effective capacity

Box, Stephen S.J.Box at exeter.ac.uk
Sun Apr 6 19:44:32 EDT 2008

Sorry for the break in replying to the points raised in response to my previous posting concerning the condition of the reefs on Utila. 
In the interlude I think Dwight has eloquently surmised some of the limitations that confront individuals and small organisations working for sustained periods at a field and community level. 
Pete Raines is correct in saying that there have been multi million dollar development projects in the Bay Islands with the main one being the Interamerican Development bank funded Project for the Environmental Management of the Bay Islands (PMAIB) under the Honduran Institute for Tourism. Since 1998 its remit has been extensive yet its results and achievements variable, see www.islasdelabahia.org
I would still contend that one of the projects biggest limitations since this projects inception would be that within Honduras there was and is limited technical capacity and biological understanding of tropical marine systems. To fill that gap, external consultants collect, analyse and disseminated the information and I would say that points 1,2,4 and 5 of Dwight's summation may well be apparent in this process. But importantly at the end of the TOR they leave often having consumed a large portion of the overall project budget (but that is the nature of the beast). On departure the capacity within Honduras reduces again and often the ability to use the information gathered and implement the recommendations also diminishes. Thus Honduras may well remain limited in actual technical capacity irrespective of the total sum of money being spent here.
To respond more directly to Pete Raines' other comments; Coral Cay Conservation was working for extended periods of time in the Bay Islands and yes it did indeed collect a large amount of information about the reef systems here. However, if that information, as Dwight points out is inaccessible, either by location or by language (since the government of Honduras and their technical advisors work in Spanish) then there remains a lack of understanding about biological systems here. 
I personally believe that the greatest legacy of CCC would not necessarily be the data but the fact that they actually did build capacity by training Honduran students to work under water and collect information. That action has inspired a set of people which have long since graduated, but many are now working in marine science and conservation related fields. In Honduras specifically some now work directly with me at UCME, others have set up their own marine consultancies within the country, others work for multinational NGO's on local projects. Those people rather than the CCC data are going to be the driving force for the management of the marine resources here, and I suspect to some extent in Belize too. CCC should be proudest of the people it trained and the plethora of people it has provided a platform for as the first step on a career in marine science. They continue to work long after CCC leave and that may be a very important and fundamental point. 
To make a brief positive addition to Dwight's other important comment "...who is responsible for ensuring that national information is safeguarded and accessible" there is a ray of light on this. The Regional Institute for Biodiversity IRBIO based now within Honduras (at Zamorano, Pan-American School for Agriculture) aims to support collate and disseminate information relevant to the management and sustainable use of biodiversity in the region. It acts to support the implementation of relevant work, an independent and accessible store for information, a bridge builder between organisations and scientists working in different countries and as an avenue to channel information to the hands of decision makers, politicians etc. UCME works closely with this institution on all of its projects to ensure data doesn't end up in that metaphorical dusty draw.
P.S. To all those who contacted me directly for further information on Utila and Honduras I promise to get back to you this week. I was away travelling last week so couldn't respond fully.

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