José Leónidas Ramos and Danilo Gómez, champions of ecological community development (Honduras)
The Gulf of Fonseca, in Central America is shared by Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador. Mangrove ecosystems and other types of wetlands dominate the coast, where mammals, reptiles, mollusks, crustaceans, and birds interact, and where thousands of fishermen use the local biodiversity to secure their housing, food, employment and recreation.
Fishermen on the Honduran coast have for many years fought to prevent the establishment of destructive agro-export companies (e.g. for shrimp aquaculture and sugar cane) and industrial tourism in their productive wetland ecosystems. In this way they have achieved an historical success in the Gulf of Fonseca: the designation of Ramsar Site # 1,000 in 1999, and, in 2000, the declaration of 10 local protected areas, six of which correspond to wetlands, and the rest to a marine national park and water-producing forests. José Leónidas Ramos and José Danilo Gómez participated actively in that struggle and in the mobilizations in the capital city that culminated in these achievements.
In 2015, Josè and Danilo and José had a chance to participate in a workshop on Ecological Mangrove Restoration in the Gulf of Fonseca, coordinated by the Mangrove Action Project (MAP), where they learned to rehabilitate these ecosystems by recovering the biophysical conditions of the area. After the workshop, Danilo and Jose dedicated themselves with much energy to restore a small island of 4.5 hectares, known as “Isla de Pájaros” because it is a nesting site for seabirds. The island is covered with mangroves and a few invasive forest species. After breeding there, thousands of birds spread throughout the Gulf of Fonseca. Several tourism operators take advantage of the beauty of the site and the numerous birds to make frequent trips to the island, but without obeying any management plan or conservation measures, thus endangering their ecological integrity.
José and Danilo first managed to interest local authorities in organizing the human activities on the Isla de Pájaros and reducing their impacts. They also engaged children and students volunteers in the cleaning and restoration of the natural hydrology of the island. They also obtained, studied and distributed among the competent authorities the Fisheries Law—so that it could become known to fishermen, restaurant owners, tourism operators and other users. Together with the Municipality, the Forest Conservation Institute and several tourism operators and traders, they subsequently elaborated a Municipal Ordinance oriented towards the sound management of the Island of Birds and dozens of square kilometers ff fishing areas around it.
In parallel to its conservation activities, Josè and Danilo have successfully completed the creation, organization and legalization of the “Association of Small Scale Fishermen of Cedeño”, made up of more than 60 men and women engaged in fishing and trade. In summary, they succeeded in rehabilitating an island, establishing the bases for the conservation of coastal wetland ecosystems in San Lorenzo Bay and conscientized are helped to organize their fellow fishermen for the sustainable use of their natural resources !
The recognition by the Paul K. Feyerabend Awards has taken José and Danilo by surprise because they did not expect more reward than the satisfaction of doing good to present and future generations. They are thankful to the Honduran regional authorities, the fishermen, merchants and students for their contributions in the defense of wildlife and the environment in general, and for the impetus for community development that they have wanted to support.