The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Honduras expands ∼210,000 km2 and remains largely unexplored. After the Global Deep-Sea Capacity Assessment defined a baseline of the technical and human capacity for deep-sea exploration and research worldwide in 2022, it stated that Central America is the sub-region with the highest potential for investment and discovery. Indeed, reports of marine life below 30 m exhibit high abundance and diversity throughout this area, although the observational data is confined to a few locations. Unfortunately, a research/academic structure for marine science in Honduras is non-existent.
The Honduras Oceanographic Society is an initiative to build capacity and accelerate our ability to explore, manage, and protect our most profound marine resources through an inclusive, knowledge-based approach. Intended projects include the development of the Honduras Oceanographic Atlas to compile high quality data for a scientific audience, and an interactive 3D for broader outreach. Moreover, local awareness and deep-sea literacy will be built through a collaborative and inclusive initial exploration campaign. This effort will simultaneously conduct to an increased capacity for developing and implementing a follow-up plan with archivable goals and inter-institutional commitment.
The initial exploration campaign will be in collaboration with local fishermen, undergraduate student, and local conservation practitioners. This campaign is being planned to start in summer 2023 and will depend on the acquisition of relatively low-cost technologies. A small 300 m rated ROV will be deployed in known fishing sites, but with unassessed benthic profiles. A towed video camera system will be deployed during transit routes to identify free-swimming pelagic macrofauna at depths down to 2,500 m. For exploring deeper seafloor sites, the existing backscatter data for key areas will serve as a guide for identifying soft sediment terrain with potential cold coral ecosystems. Drop-down video cameras will be deployed at these deeper sites. A long-term underwater camera trap network will be set up to monitor remote fish spawning aggregation sites. A small AUV will be used to scan larger areas with CTD, backscatter and other scientific data to inform plans with areas of interest for subsequent in situ exploration.
This initiative is bringing together local researchers, local NGO representatives, and government authorities. A local private university that offers a bachelor's degree in mechatronics is interested in providing long-term maintenance to underwater equipment. Opportunities for international knowledge transfer and capacity building are being sought.
For more details on the broader ambitions of this initiative, please visit: https://honduras.pubpub.org