Roatan Island is the largest of Honduras' Bay Islands -- measuring roughly 29 miles long and 4 miles wide. Roatan is best known for its fantastic reefs which make it one of the best snokeling and diving destinations in the Caribbean. The island features white sand beaches [West Bay], mangrove forests, and a thriving dive community.
Roatán, located between the islands of Utila and Guanaja, is the largest of Honduras' Bay Islands. It is approximately 60 kilometres long, and less than 8 kilometres wide at its widest point.
The capital and most populated town is Coxen Hole, located in the Southwest of the island. Other important towns include French Harbor and Oak Ridge.
Located near the largest barrier reef in the Caribbean Sea (second largest worldwide after Australia's Great Barrier Reef), it has become an important cruising and diving destination in Honduras. Tourism is its most important economic sector, though fishing is also an important source of income for islanders.
In 1998, the island suffered considerable damage from Hurricane Mitch, temporarily paralyzing most commercial activity.
Tourism and environmental impact
While tourism has strongly contributed towards the economic development of the island, it has also altered Roatan's fragile ecosystem. Land clearing for the construction of residential complexes, as well as improper sewage and garbage disposal methods, have inflicted considerable damage to the island in a time span of less than a decade.
Several efforts by environmental organizations have helped to reduce the adverse environmental impacts. Still, the long-term success of these efforts is uncertain because the inflow of tourism is likely to increase with the completion of a new international airport in the neighboring island of Utila.
Although Spanish is spoken in mainland Honduras, the main language on the island is (creole) English,
One-hundred-and-ninety-seven illegal loggers across a dozen Central and South American countries have been arrested during INTERPOL's first strike against widespread forestry crime. INTERPOL, or The International Criminal Police Organization, worked with local police forces to take a first crack at illegal logging. In all the effort, known as Operation Lead, resulted in the seizure of 50,000 cubic meters of wood worth around $8 million.
Located in a mountainous area near the border with Guatemala, Cusuco National Park in Honduras is recognized by researchers as a critical refuge for endangered amphibians in a country that has suffered from widespread deforestation. But while the park largely escaped the devastation that has affected other protected areas in Honduras, the situation seems to be changing: since 2010 there has been a sharp increase in deforestation. Poachers, small farmers, and cattle ranchers are moving into the park using a network of research trails and camps established by Operation Wallacea, a British conservation science NGO.
Countries across Latin America lost 78,000 square kilometers of subtropical and tropical dry broadleaf forests between 2001 and 2010, according to a new satellite-based assessment published in the journal Biotropica.
The year 2011 has presented the world with a shocking increase in irregular weather and disasters linked to climate change. Just as the 2007 "big melt" of summer arctic sea ice sent scientists and environmentalists scrambling to re-evaluate the severity of climate change, so have recent events forced major revisions and updates in climate science.
Endangered sharks are finding more sanctuaries. Honduras has announced that commercial shark fishing will be banned from its 92,665 square miles (240,000 square kilometers) of national waters. Honduras says the ban, which follows a moratorium on shark fishing, will bring in tourism revenue and preserve the marine environment.
It has been estimated that as many as 300 million farmers in tropical countries may take part in slash and burn agriculture. A practice that is environmentally destructive and ultimately unstable. However, research funded by the EEC and carried out in Costa Rica in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Mike Hands offers hope that it is possible to farm more successfully and sustainably in these tropical regions.
Nicaraguan and Honduran officials have announced that upwards of 100 people are confirmed dead, and another 120 still unaccounted for after Hurricane Felix made landfall earlier this week.
Hundreds of fires are burning across Central America according to NASA satellite images and reports from the ground. Fires have been detected in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
U.S. companies are unknowingly importing illegal Honduran wood, contributing to deforestation, corruption and poverty in the Latin American country, according to a yearlong undercover investigation by the Center for International Policy and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
Last month Honduras became to second country to receive aid under the controlversial Millennium Challenge Account program when it signed a five-year $215 million funding deal. The Millennium Challenge Account gives grants to countries committed to respecting the rule of law and reducing corruption.
With its biodiversity, rich history, beautiful beaches, and stunning reefs, some believe Honduras could be the ecotourism hotspot in Central America. However, between growing gang violence linked to the drug trade in the United States and conflicts between developers and local communities, the country still faces many challenges in becoming the next Costa Rica. Special correspondent Tina Butler takes a look at changing attitudes about the environment in one of Central America's poorest countries.
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