April 24, 2005

Reef Check Goes Trippin’ with Cameron Diaz on MTV

RC Scientist Dr. Ruben Torres and Park Director, Adrian Oviedo. Click image for larger view.

MTV’s Trippin’ Cast Do Reef Check of Honduras Coral Reefs

The inside story. What did Cameron Diaz and her friends Kelly Slater, Jessica Alba, Chris Chelios, and Kid Rock find out about the reefs of Honduras when they filmed an episode of MTV’s Trippin’?

MTV Air Times:
April 25:  10:30PM
April 26: 1:00PM, 6:30PM   
April 28: 12:00PM 

Check local listings for TV times near you.

Reef Check Scientist Dr. Ruben Torres reports that Cameron and friends were blown away by the incredible coral reefs of Cayos Cochinos, Honduras and loved the diving so much, that they didn’t want to leave. Unfortunately, Cameron and friends found out that the reefs of Honduras are facing some major challenges today.

Key Environmental Issues:
The major issues facing the coral reefs of Honduras are:

  • Erosion from poorly planned coastal development that causes sedimentation that suffocates the reefs;
  • Overfishing that leads to ecological destabilization such that algae begin to overgrow the hard corals – like weeds, killing adults and newly settled polyps;
  • Tourism — rapid growth in the tourist industry means that large numbers of tourists are brought on reef excursions without adequate education about how to avoid damaging the reefs or getting hurt.

The solutions to the Key Environmental Issues are:

  • Support Reef Check teams in Honduras and local non-profits working with the government to educate people and to conserve the coral reefs using marine reserves.
  • If you take a cruise in a tropical coral reef region, ask to be educated about coral reef conservation and Reef Check EcoAction programs;
  • Join a Reef Check Expedition or Survey Team and learn to survey the reefs and how to conserve them. See www.reefcheck.org/participate/membership.asp.

To learn more about the coral reefs of Honduras, check out the information below:

Honduras Background:
Honduras was home to the Maya civilization since at least 1000 BC, was colonized by Spain in the 1500s and became an independent nation in 1821. The country was hit by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which killed about 5,600 people and caused approximately $2 billion in damage.

Honduras Geography:
This Central American country of over 100,000 square kilometers has beachfront on both the Atlantic (Caribbean) and Pacific Oceans. It is bordered by El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. The 6.8 million residents primarily speak Spanish and a few local dialects. On the Caribbean side, Honduras includes the second largest coral reef complex in the world, the Meso-American Barrier Reef System and the almost uninhabited Moskito Coast.

This star coral has been bleached and is being overgrown by algae. Click image for larger view.

Coral Reefs of Honduras:
The only reefs in Honduras are on the Caribbean coast and the best are on the offshore islands, far from sediment-laden rivers on the mainland. Some of the most famous reefs are found on the islands of Roatan, Utila, Guanaja, and Cayos Cochinos. The later island group is where Cameron and her friends went diving with Reef Check Instructor, Dr. Ruben Torres.

Ruben explained that these reefs grow to as deep as 75 meters. Corals are animals, but are the biggest solar panels in the world, with microscopic algae living in their tissues. The algae need sunlight to carry out photosynthesis and the corals need the algae to have enough energy to build a big skeleton. So reef-building corals don’t grow in very deep water where there is insufficient light.

The common corals seen on the Cayos Cochinos reefs include the star coral that forms huge “heads” and a plate coral. Ruben told the Trippin team to watch out for the abundant “fire coral” because it causes a sharp sting! The reefs of the Bay Islands and Cayos Cochinos have the highest number of coral species in the region. They provide habitat for more than 225 species of fish found in the islands. The local people rely on subsistence fishing and like many areas of the Caribbean, have over-fished high-value species such as the delicious Nassau Grouper. Now that Cayos Cochinos is a no-fishing area, beautiful fish like these are making a come-back and Reef Check teams have counted a number in recent surveys. Recently a ban on lobster fishing using scuba gear was enacted within the Cayos Cochinos.

Many areas of the Caribbean have been overfished, the Cayos Cochinos park protects fish so that they can reproduce. Click image for larger view.

The long-term solution to most of the problems facing coral reefs is to set up well-enforced reserves where no fishing is allowed. This will allow the fish and lobster to reproduce and “reseed” the surrounding area. Honduras is very lucky to have leaders such at the Cayos Cochinos Park Director, Adrian Oviedo, who are educating local people, carrying out Reef Check training and surveys and protecting these invaluable resources for the future.

For more information about coral reef problems and solutions see:

For more information about Honduras and its reefs contact:


Cayos Cochinos Park
Fundacion Hondurena Para La Protecion y Conservacion de Cayos Cochinos
Colonia El Naranjal, Avenida Victor Hugo, Casa #1175
La Ceiba, Honduras
Tel: 504-443-4075 or 4076
Web site:

For more information about MTV’s Trippin’: