Mesoamerican Reef


The Mesoamerican region (MAR) has the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and some of the last healthy populations of Caribbean staghorn and elkhorn corals. The MAR’s coral reefs face significant threats, including climate change, land-based sources of pollution and unsustainable fishing.

CORAL has more than a decade of experience working in the MAR, with an emphasis on establishing a network of effectively managed Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in Honduras. CORAL’s work in the MAR focuses on our Clean Water for Reefs, Healthy Fisheries for Reefs, Intact Reef Ecosystems and Science of Adaptation Initiatives.

CORAL’s vision is for 35 percent of the MAR’s coral reefs to be included in a Mesoamerican Adaptive Reefscape — a network of healthy reefs that can adapt to climate change because it is diverse, connected and large. The Mesoamerican Adaptive Reefscape can serve as a replicable model for coral reef conservation globally.

We currently work in three priority sites in Honduras (Roatán, Utila and Tela Bay), which form the cornerstone of a Southern Mesoamerican Adaptive Reefscape. Our next steps are to expand to additional sites in Honduras (Trujillo, Guanaja and Omoa) and Guatemala.


The reefs of the southern MAR (Honduras and Guatemala) have the least developed management systems in the region. Our work in Honduras fills a substantial gap in the spatial coverage of effective reef protection. Our Clean Water for Reefs Initiative in Honduras has resulted in measurable improvements to coastal water quality and has set the stage for addressing wastewater pollution across the southern MAR. Thanks to our efforts with partners in West End, Roatán, over 23 million gallons of sewage per year are now being treated, which has resulted in a 30 percent reduction in Enterococcus bacteria since 2013. We are currently collaborating with the Inter-American Development Bank to update and improve wastewater treatment infrastructure across all of Honduras’ coastal municipalities.

Through our Healthy Fisheries for Reefs and Intact Reef Ecosystems Initiatives, we have implemented improved management systems for five Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in our core sites of Roatán, Utila and Tela Bay. We ensure that management plans include actions to reduce fishing pressure, especially for herbivorous fishes that control macroalgal growth and maintain healthy corals. We also address the underlying social and economic drivers of overfishing and create win-wins for communities and the environment by promoting alternative livelihood projects. In 2017, Honduras’ first coastal managed-access fishery was established in Laguna de Los Micos, creating an important model for fisheries reform in the southern MAR.


  • 2005: CORAL begins working in the MAR with a focus on Roatán, Honduras
  • 2006: Roatán Marine Park (RMP) begins conducting patrols and installing moorings in the Sandy Bay West End MPA with support from CORAL
  • 2011: CORAL and partners support the installation of a new sewage treatment plant in West End, Roatán
  • 2012: CORAL and partners encourage the Honduran government to declare Cordelia Banks, Roatán a Site of Wildlife Importance
  • 2013: CORAL establishes the Geotourism Council to encourage private tourism operators to adopt more sustainable practices (e.g. reducing the use of plastic bags)
  • 2014: CORAL and partners encourage the Honduran government to declare Tela Bay a Site of Wildlife Importance
  • 2015: RMP achieves financial independence in managing MPAs along the west end of Roatán
  • 2017: CORAL helps establish the first coastal managed-access fishery in Honduras in Laguna de Los Micos, Tela Bay
  • 2018: CORAL and partners successfully encourage the Honduran government to declare the creation of the Bahía de Tela Marine Wildlife Refuge, which protects 86,259 hectares of reefs and coastal ocean.



Pamela Ortega Javier Pizana Alonso Julio San Martin Chicas Tanya Amaya
Pamela Ortega
Program Manager
Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras
Javier Pizaña-Alonso
Program Manager
Cozumel, Mexico
Julio San Martín Chicas
Program Coordinator
Tela, Honduras
Tanya Amaya
Program Manager
Bay Islands, Honduras
Paolo Guardiola
Program Coordinator
Trujillo, Honduras
Jenny Myton
Associate Program Director
Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras
Dr. Antonella Rivera
Principal Investigator
Tela, Coastal Honduras
Sheyla Maldonado
Coordinator of Finance and Administration for the MAR
Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras


Map of CORAL's Field Sites in the Mesoamerican Region

CORAL’s Field Sites in the Mesoamerican Region

Additional Resources