Whale Shark Monitoring

We carry out periodical ‘eco tours’ in search of whale sharks and other marine animals that can be encountered around Utila. Our data is recorded and submitted to the online global database ‘Wildbook’, a photo-identification library which records the movements, abundance, behaviour and demographics of whale sharks across the world. We are currently running analyses to better understand factors that influence patterns of whale shark occurrences.

WSORC encourages every dive shop and tour operator on the island to report their whale shark sightings to us. We have instigated regulations to ensure that every whale shark tourism operation follows correct procedures for both the safety of customers and the wellbeing of the whale shark.

Coral Propagation

Coral nurseries have become common practice around the tropics to maximise biomass of ecologically advantageous coral species. Our coral nurseries help to supply the neighbouring reefs with well-maintained colonies of staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis). This species provides excellent refuge for juvenile fish.

Lionfish Culling

Lionfish are an invasive species from the Indo-Pacific. They spread from captive release in Florida in the 1980s and have since spread all over the Mesoamerican, causing substantial damage to coral reefs due to their ability to outcompete native species. WSORC conducts regular workshops to train divers to legally and safely spear lionfish. We work closely with the Bay Islands College of Diving to carry out regular lionfish hunts to keep lionfish populations around Utila to a minimum.

Mangrove Restoration

Mangroves are trees that line tropical coastlines and spend much of their life partially submerged in saltwater. They are crucial for supporting healthy reef systems as they provide sanctuary for juvenile fish and stabilise sediment to prevent it from smothering the reef. Worldwide mangrove cover has decreased by more than 20% since the 1980s. Reduction and reversal of mangrove deforestation is an often underestimated priority for coral reef conservation. WSORC runs a mangrove restoration program whereby we grow seedlings and plant them in suitable locations around the coast.

Beach Clean Ups + Dive Against Debree

One of the biggest detriments to our oceans is plastic pollution. Trash washes up on shores all over the world and causes suffocation to animals and also breaks down into microplastics whereby it enters the food chain and accumulates to harmful levels. WSORC undertakes regular beach clean ups to maintain trash-free beaches around Utila. We also work in association with the Bay Islands College of Diving to participate in PADI’s Dive Against Debris program.

Artificial Reef

Reefs harbour an enormous array of wildlife due to the rigid structural complexity that they supply to an otherwise flat and unstable area. We normally think of coral reefs, but many other materials can serve as reefs that support high diversity. Utila Lodge and WSORC have deployed many concrete cinder blocks underneath our own dock. We periodically monitor the influx of fish that are now flourishing on our own doorstep.

Reef Health Monitoring and Citizen Science Submission

It is important to continuously assess the health of our coral reefs and track change over time as this helps to shape conservation and research priorities and supports our efforts to encourage people within the Island to work sustainably. We regularly survey the reefs to obtain data on fish and benthic health. Part of our surveying effort includes monthly submission of data to the citizen science programs ‘REEF’ and ‘Coral Watch’.