Meet Jerelee Hynds, Reef Protector. Born and raised in Gravel Bay, Roatán, Jerelee is dedicated to the protection and preservation of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. I recently caught up with Jerelee to ask about his passion for the reef, and the part he plays in protecting it. We met in Jerelee’s office: his kayak.
Why is it important to protect the reef?
I have been working with the Roatan Marine Park for over 2 years. I work alone patrolling the West End area keeping people from touching or standing on the reef. So many of the tourists I talk to are not aware the reef is a living organism, they are used to rivers and rocks. The reef is not a rock; if you touch it or break a piece off, you are killing the reef.
I dive at least 2 days a week, and can tell you I have seen great decay in the reef in the last 10 years. I think most tourists come to Roatán for the reef, for diving. If the reef dies, the tourists will stop coming and our economy will suffer.
Please share some of the things people do to harm the reef, and what they can do to help the reef.
RMP has four boats working end-to-end island patrol. The biggest problems we encounter are poaching, illegally removing things from the reef, and people damaging the coral.
There are so many things tourists can do to help the reef. Here’s what I tell people. First and foremost, DO NOT TOUCH THE REEF!! The oil from your skin damages the reef, and you risk breaking pieces off. People need to dispose of their trash properly. The sea is not a garbage can. Wherever you are on the island, do not litter. We talk about “ridge to reef” on the island – if you litter on the top of a hill, eventually your trash ends up in the sea. If you are a first time snorkeler or diver in Roatán, use a guide from one of the local dive shops. They will be able to help you navigate the reef and the places where you might accidently touch it. Also, only use reef-safe sunscreen.
What are your favorite things about the reef and Roatán?
My favorite place to be, and work, is on the water, near the coral. I love the area near Black Rock, but because it is so popular, it is suffering the most decay. There are amazing people on the island working to protect and preserve the environment, and the reef, but we need the help of visitors. I want people to know if they are coming anywhere in the Caribbean, they can learn how to protect the coral reef, and help us spread the word. (Click here to view the Top 10 Ways You Can Protect the Reef.)
Together with Jerelee and the Roatan Marine Park, the Abundant Life Foundation strives to protect and preserve the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. You can support our Conservation efforts by donating here. 100% of your donations go directly to our programs in Roatán.