For Genny Ross-Barons, living just a few hundred feet away from the coral reefs on the Caribbean Island of Roatan is a wake-up call to nature’s fragility. “This isn’t a man-made attraction,” she writes.
Growing up in Ontario, Canada, I knew next to nothing about the Caribbean Sea, and even less about the second longest coral reef in the world.
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, the community I hail from is surrounded on three sides by Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario, all part of the chain of five lakes known as The Great Lakes, the source of the largest fresh water system on Earth.
Wow! That’s pretty impressive…but I never gave it much thought.
For me, as a kid, it just meant there was a beach within an easy driving distance. Then again…as a kid, I never hesitated to ask, “Are we there yet?”
The Canadian National Exposition (CNE) every year, marked the end of the summer holidays, but also meant I could watch the Air Show my heart pounding with excitement as planes soared, dipped, and performed amazing acrobatic feats above Lake Ontario. Lake Huron — or more specifically, Tobermory, the Scuba Diving Capital of Canada — is where I almost learned how to scuba dive.
Over the years I had heard that the Great Lakes were getting polluted, that you had to limit the number of fish you ate from them—too many would make you sick. More frequently signs were being posted on the beaches that it wasn’t safe to go swimming — that too would make you sick.
For me, it was an inconvenience but I still didn’t give it much thought.
Now I live on Roatan, my front yard is a dock, stretching into the Caribbean Sea. Only a few hundred feet beyond that, I watch waves break on the world’s second longest coral reef.
I’ve seen seahorses, barracuda, sting-rays, Portuguese man-of-war, and numerous other sea creatures swimming from the reef toward the dock—gracing me with a closer look of their magnificence. I’ve watched a dolphin leisurely swim by, and marveled at the detail outline of a starfish. I stroll along the shore (especially after a storm) picking up pieces of the reef that have br oken off and washed ashore: sea fans, black sponge, and finger coral (to name only three of the thousands of species), each piece as unique as a snowflake, with a beauty of natural form no artist could ever match.
I’m in awe of all that I see and experience, but just like when I was at the beach on Lake Erie, or watching the planes swooping over Lake Ontario, or doing my first open water dive in Lake Huron…
I don’t give it enough thought!
I don’t appreciate enough the importance of preserving and protecting these marvels of nature and all they have to offer. They have been here forever and always will be…right?
It is up to you and me to educate ourselves about their value to our world, to think of the legacy we o we our children, and how, in everything we do, we need to – STOP – and consider the impact our actions might be having.
Fortunately, in this era of accessible information, education and action are possible. The Great Lakes Information Network (GLIN) and the Roatan Marine Park offer a wealth of insight into the health and sustainability of these bodies of water.
Enjoy the reef surrounding Roatan and all it has to offer. Just remember, it isn’t a man-made attraction (like Disney World) that can be replaced. It is a LIVING, BREATHING organism that will thrive if cherished — and will die if neglected or abused.
All photos © Genny Ross-Barons. All rights Reserved.
This story can also be read at Honduras Weekly and was previously published June 12, 2010 on www.roatanvortex.com