Saving the Mesoamerican Reef

The Mesoamerican Reef system stretches over 1000km, spanning the eastern coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. Known as the jewel of the Caribbean, the Mesoamerican Reef is a rich tapestry of coral reefs, mangrove forests, coastal wetlands and diverse marine life. WWF notes although the reefs have survived seasonal onslaughts of hurricanes and other natural disasters, they may not be so well prepared to withstand the impact of human activity. Coastal development, unregulated tourism, pollution and overfishing threaten the reef system.

Shockoe partnered with Roatan Marine Park, a nonprofit in Honduras, to develop a mobile app that can help protect the Mesoamerican Reef. Roatan Marine Park (RMP) is a small not-for-profit based on Roatan island that is trying to protect the reef from invasive species, poaching, dredging, mangrove cutting, and a host of other threats.

NTechLab also announced that it has raised $1.5 million (£1.2m), which it plans to use to create more cloud applications for facial and emotion recognition software.

“Education and community outreach is a huge part of our work. That’s the long game. But in the short term we have seen a lot of traction and improvement through our patrol efforts,” – says Eduardo Rico, Executive Director of RMP, noting, “but we just can’t be everywhere at once.”

RMP has a patrol crew of just six people, rotating night and day, tasked with conducting environmental inspections and following up on cases where people are poaching protected species such as conch and turtle, spearfishing illegally, or a number of other environmental infractions that harm the reef.

Keeping eyes on the waters at all times is an impossible task and thus RMP relies on reports from citizens and tourists by phone or word of mouth. In most cases by the time reports come in and a patrol member can be sent on scene there is no hope for intervention and little evidence of who was involved.

“Hey guys, we have an idea for an app.”

Shockoe worked closely with the Roatan Marine Park employees to create a mobile application that would augment their patrol staff by allowing citizens to be RMP’s eyes and ears. Along with reporting boating, poaching and environmental concerns, users can take and send photos and videos while marking the location via GPS.

“What makes this a great mobile app is that it encourages the general public to take photos or videos of the incident and mark the location along with the report so that RMP has better evidence,” says Samantha Carbonell, a designer at Shockoe.