The Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization founded in 1991 by the people living in the Bay Islands in order to initiate and coordinate efforts in protecting the Islands’ fragile natural resources. BICA’s operation and projects are funded through the support of local individuals, businesses and national and international agencies. BICA has two chapters – one in Roatan and one in Utila.
Utila is the smallest of the Bay Islands, located off the northern coast of Honduras. It is a lush, tropical paradise, surrounded by spectacular coral reefs and crystal blue waters, home to about 7,000 people and numerous species of plants and animals. But, its environment is fragile and the pressure of population and tourism growth is leaving its mark. Utila needs a coordinated effort of its people and the international community to preserve its bounty for future generations.
Since its formation, BICA Utila has been instrumental in initiating many conservation projects: management of the Turtle Harbour Wildlife Refuge and Marine Reserve; protection of sea turtles; protection of coral reefs through installation of buoys; first garbage collection on the island; beach cleaning; environmental education in local schools; developing codes of conduct for divers; monitoring whale sharks, etc. In its long and eventful history, BICA Utila has worked with many local and international organizations on the protection of the island’s resources, particularly the reefs, and helped many visiting students and researchers with their work. But, BICA’s main job is, and has always been, to work with the local community to protect their small piece of paradise so that future generations will be able to enjoy it and make a living from its resources.
BICA concentrates in developing important programs such as:
Lionfish awareness program: lionfish (Pterois volitans) an invasive species in the Caribbean, is decreasing fish populations due to its lack of natural predators in this environment. bica focuses on working with Utila's private sector, promotes education, license process, monitoring and activities to reduce lionfish population around the island.
Increase conservation in marine protected areas (mpa): empower community participation in protection activities-Bluewatch, providing informative workshops about regulations in marine protected areas belonging to the Bay Islands National Marine Park, participation in surveillance activities in the marine park. bica offers ecotours to the mpa giving an exclusive insight about ecosystems conectivity (special price for volunteers)
Sea turtle program: for five months of the year (Jun-Oct) bica monitors on site nesting activity in different areas. The organization works year around to increase participatory monitoring-Turtlewatch (feedback from snorkelers/divers/beachfront residents), encourage adoption of best practices for nesting turtles, sea turtle id workshops.
Community development: encloses the support toward regional campaigns such as Responsible Seafood Guide; an important step to provide sustainable guidelines for seafood consumption in the bay islands. These program also helps the promoting of sustainable practices through educational workshops.
Environmental education: this program includes topics such as coral reefs, marine protected areas, sea turtles, lionfish workshops in schools and community groups. bica also provides presentations to Universities upon request, develops educational materials and supports local initiatives such as recycling, beach cleanups, among others.
Visitor Center: the organization has a visitor center with information about Utila's resources. This program focuses in maintaining the center (decorating, gardening), provide information to visitors, merchandising for conservation purposes.