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El Berrinche


Conservation benefit: New 20-acre no-take marine zone

Community benefit: Environmental education hub with computer lab and library

Date Approved: 06.2021


This project protects ocean ecosystems, making coastal communities more economically and physically secure in the face of climate change.

Roatán Island is the perfect tropical getaway for divers and snorkelers. Few of them see the poverty and environmental degradation in the small community of El Berrinche, even though it’s near the popular West End dive area.

But El Berrinche is taking steps to reclaim its marine environment. It’s declared a 20-acre no-take zone just offshore, in Half Moon Bay, to protect coral reefs damaged by overfishing. (Sewage, which was untreated until 2012, also caused damage. In 2017, Seacology funded repairs to the treatment plant.) A 2018 survey by Healthy Reefs for Healthy People showed a decline in biodiversity. There were fewer parrotfish and other species critical to reef health.

The prospects for recovery are good. The beach received a 2019 Blue Flag Beach Award for meeting strict water quality standards. Under the new rules, only hook-and-line fishing is allowed. Boat traffic, which has injured kids swimming there, is banned. Roatán Marine Park, a partner of Seacology in other projects on the island, will install buoys to mark the area and will patrol it regularly.

Working with Polo’s Water Association, Seacology is funding a new environmental education hub with computers, books, and supplies such as fish ID cards and snorkel gear. Roatán Marine Park will provide a year-round environmental educator. This is an enormous benefit to the community, where children have little access to books or computers. And because families don’t have computers or internet at home, students lost a year of school during the pandemic.

In addition to classroom instruction, kids will take part in beach clean-ups and surveys of fish, corals, and algae. This fieldwork helps ensure good management of the beach. It also gives youth skills they can apply in conservation careers, steering them away from environmentally damaging sources of income.

Project Updates

February 2024

Roatán Marine Park ranger still patrol the marine protected area. Classes, activities, and tutoring are offered every day in the bright, spacious environmental education center. There are English, science, math, technology, engineering, music and art programs. Environmental protection talks address water quality, climate change, coral reefs, and more. The community is excited and committed to working together for the next generation.

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June 2023

Rangers from the Roatán Marine Park patrol the protected area regularly, making 1,487 control and surveillance patrols from January 2022 to June 1, 2023. In March, our project partner had to move the environmental classroom out of its spot in an elementary school. Luckily, they found an unused space in a nearby building and have signed a five-year lease for a minimal amount of rent. They were able to take the educational tools they had bought—laptops, printers, routers, chairs, tables, bookshelves, books, and educational tools such as decks of marine species cards—with them. On May 1, more than 50 residents came to inaugurate the new space, enjoying games, snacks, and tours of the bright, airy new classroom.

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February 2023

A total of 75 children are getting environmental education in a bright new, well-equipped classroom. Originally, the plan was to rehabilitate an old kindergarten, but the building had structural damage, so our partner is using space in a nearby public elementary school. The kids have also gone on field trips, where they learned about trees, iguanas, monkeys, and birds, as well as local history and culture, including pirates and colonizers.

Rangers from the Roatán Marine Park conducted 820 patrols in the marine protected area from January to September of 2022. They reported a total of 119 incidents, 61 of them related to illegal fishing. There were also a few instances of mangrove cutting and sand removal.

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June 2022

Our project partner has bought laptops, printers, routers, and other computer equipment, as well as furniture, for the environmental education building. The Bay Islands Conservation Association donated 150 tree seedlings (tamarind, mango, avocado, apple, mahogany, and more), which were planted in the community.

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