Two new coastal Ramsar Sites for Honduras

09/04/2013

The Secretariat is very pleased to announce that, effective World Wetlands Day 2013, the government of Honduras has added two important new coastal sites to the Ramsar List. Honduras now has eight Wetlands of International Importance on the List, covering an area of 269,575 hectares. As summarized by Ramsar’s new Assistant for the Americas, Ms Sara Casallas Ramirez, based on the accompanying Ramsar Information Sheets, the Sistema de Humedales Cuyamel-Omoa (30,029 hecares, 15°39’18”N 088°11’49”W), a National Park, is an extremely varied and important wetland system based on its function as habitat of endangered species such as the Antillean Manatee Trichechus manatus, the Jabiru bird Jabiru mycteria, the Guasa fish Epinephelus itajara,the crocodile Crocodylus acutus, and the sea turtle species Dermochelys coriacea and Eretmochelys imbricata. The extent of the Park and Ramsar Site, located near Guatemala’s Punta de Manabique Ramsar Site, includes part of the Gulf of Honduras, the lowland Cuyamel valley, and part of the Sierra de Omoa mountains (max. 1,628m asl). The site is also vital for aquatic species particularly during their early life stages, as they maintain the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System fisheries and are the basis of the local economy.

Furthermore, the system supports resident and migratory waterbird populations as well as sea turtle populations that depend on the site’s beaches, particularly during the spawning season. In addition to these ecosystem services, the site is essential for the regulation of water flux and the prevention of seawater intrusion and contamination of aquifers in the coastal areas where local communities are located. Among the adverse effects faced by the site are the expansion of cattle ranching, the growing number of African Palm crops, and the growing construction sector, among others.

The second new site, the offshore Sistema de Humedales de la Isla de Utila (16,226 hectares, 16°06’00”N 085°56’14”W) comprises the Bahía Islands Marine Park, which includes two Marine Special Protection Zones and one Wildlife Refuge. The importance of the site, which includes the Isla de Utila and surrounding waters, is based on its diverse and interdependent ecosystems, which are part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System and include coral reefs, marine grasses, mangroves, swamps, coastal lakes, rocky shores, hypersaline shallow waters, and floodplains, as well as above and below ground karstic systems. These ecosystems support numerous fauna and flora species including some endangered species such as the sea turtles Caretta caretta, Chelonia mydas (green sea turtle), and Eretmochelys imbricata.

Endangered species of birds, fish and shellfish are also found, with what is considered to be the largest habitat and species diversity of the northwest Caribbean region of the Barrier Reef System. The Park also plays a vital role in supporting various species particularly during their first life stages. Utila Island is a tourism hotspot and is also a valuable and mostly unexplored archaeological site, having been home to Chibcha and Mesoamerican tribes; increasing tourist and urban development are considered to present potential threats.

Sistema de Humedales Cuyamel-Omoa -- Aves en Laguna Temporal Barra de Motagua (Foto: Roger Flores)



Sistema de Humedales Cuyamel-Omoa -- Laguna de Jaloa (Foto: Roger Flores)

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