Eco-Audit: How Well Is the Mesoamerican Reef Managed?

Written by on February 27, 2014 in Coral Reefs, Policy & Ocean Law
Blue Reef in Roatan, Honduras.

Blue Reef in Roatan, Honduras. Photo credit: alfonsator via photopin cc.

A new report from the Healthy Reefs Initiative (HRI) examines the level of protection afforded to the coral reefs of Mesoamerica (Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico) and how it has changed over the last three years.

HRI was launched in 2004 with the goal of improving and speeding up reef conservation efforts, and now has over 50 local, regional, and international conservation, research and management organizations dedicated to protecting the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR). MAR extends 600 miles, from the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, past Guatemala and Belize, to the Bay Islands off the north coast of Honduras.

The 2014 Eco-Audit of the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) Countries evaluates the implementation of 28 reef management actions previously recommended by governments, NGOs, and the private sector, and examines how much progress has been made. The 28 management indicators are grouped into seven general themes, listed below in order of most to least progress:

  1. Research, Education and Awareness (3.9 out of 5)
  2. Marine Protected Areas (3.4)
  3. Global Issues (2.8)
  4. Coastal Zone Management (2.7)
  5. Ecosystems-based Fisheries Management (2.6)
  6. Sustainability in the Private Sector (2.4)
  7. Sanitation and Sewage Treatment (2.3)
Brain coral and Christmas tree worms in Belize.

Brain coral and Christmas tree worms in Belize. Photo credit: USGS.

“What is not measured does not exist, and what is not communicated is of little use,” explained Luis Bourillón of the Mesoamerican Reef Program in a news release.

“The real value of the 2014 Eco-Audit is to have one evaluation of the efforts of the four countries that share the responsibility of preserving all of the Mesoamerican Reef,” said Bourillón.

The Eco-Audit revealed that encouraging progress has been made on some issues, particularly with marine protected areas, but the overall pace of implementation of management actions is far too slow. Since the last Eco-Audit in 2011, 80 percent of the 22 indicators measured in both 2011 and 2014 had no changes; only 18 percent increased. If this pace continues, it will take 50 years to fully implement all of the recommended management actions, which is too long for reefs that are already in danger.

Region-wide, the MAR Countries achieved a ‘Fair’ level of implementation, with a score of 2.9 out of five. Belize ranked first with a score of 3.2, closely followed by Mexico at 3.1. Honduras came in third with a score of 2.7, and Guatemala made the least progress with a score of 2.4.

Andrea Rivera of the National Autonomous University of Honduras, explained that “Swifter action now will be much more effective in safeguarding this natural treasure – and the billions of dollars per year in goods and services that it provides.”

To learn more:

 Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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