Early in the morning we had the chance to meet with Adrian Oviedo, the Director of the Foundation for the Protection of the Reefs of Honduras (Fundación para la Protección de los Arrecifes de Honduras), who is leading the conservation Project at Cayos Cochinos.
We coordinated our work plans for the upcoming days. We hope that we will not only succeed in documenting the ecosystem of these keys, but also that our work will be useful to those who are working so hard and so effectively here.
We all felt energized by the warmth and graciousness of our Honduran colleagues. The truth is that it is an incredible privilege to work with people as dedicated and as professional as the staff of MarViva or the Fundación de Cayos Cochinos.
Now we have almost a week of work here, during which we will try to document different parts of the keys and assess their conservation status. There are a few areas of complete protection, while others are more open to tourism and fishing. We want to evaluate their respective ecological condition. It will also be critical to keep in mind that these ecosystems have suffered a few serious episodes of coral bleaching and sicknesses like white-band disease, as well as the damaging impact of Hurricane Mitch.
We are also very interested in documenting species that are characteristic of this zone, like the Caribbean lobster (Panulirus argus), horse-eye jack (Caranx latus) or queen conch (Strombus gigas), because of their economic importance to specific fisheries. But we don't want to ignore other species, like the Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus), which is disappearing in many areas of the Caribbean.
Most of our work, however, will be to assess the status of the corals, like staghorn coral (Acropora sp.), boulder star coral (Montastraea sp.) or hydrocorals like fire coral (Millepora sp.).
In just a few hours we will begin the dives and everyone will be anxious to get underwater. All of our divers - our colleagues from ZOEA (Inés and Sole) along with our videographer, Mar, and our photographer, Houssine - are impatient to get back to work. We will try to do a few night dives since that is the time when many of the reef species are most active.
Full and hectic days are ahead, but we are all ready and excited to begin.