The Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization founded in 1991 by residents of the Bay Islands, Honduras 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, national and international agencies and volunteers. BICA has three chapters – one in Utila, one in Roatan and one in Guanaja.
Since its formation, BICA Utila has been instrumental in initiating many conservation projects: management of the Turtle Harbour Wildlife Refuge; 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.
“The earth is all we have in common.”
Utila is the smallest of the Bay Islands, located off the northern coast of Honduras, only 11 km long and 4 km at its widest and with its only 45 km2 made up mostly of low lying mangrove forest and because of this, declared RAMSAR site #2134. The highest point on the island is Pumpkin Hill, an ancient volcanic cone standing tall at 74m/243 ft on its northeastern edge. Thirteen sandy islets, called cays, dot the shallow waters off the island’s western end.
Fringing coral reef surrounds most of the island, and Utila, along with the other main islands of Roatan and Guanaja, forms the southernmost part of the Mesoamerican Reef System. Utila is a lush, tropical paradise, surrounded by spectacular coral reefs and crystal blue waters, home to about 4,100 residents, and about 800 inhabit the cays, although the number is much higher, maybe even double that with the inclusion of tourists and part-time residents.