Los Roques Archipelago National Park was created in 1972 to protect a marine ecosystem of exceptional beauty and ecological value dominated by coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds. The park, located about 130 km from the Venezuela's mainland coast, covers 221,120 ha, making it the largest marine park in the Caribbean Sea. Long before it was declared a national park, an important fishing practice was establishing in the archipelago, one that developed into the small native town of Gran Roque Island, which produces 90% of the lobster for consumption in Venezuela. In 1996, Los Roques was declared a Ramsar site because of its importance as a reservoir of biodiversity and food resources. Over the past ten years, tourism has replaced fishing as the main economic activity. More than 50 thousand tourists, who stay in any of 60 available lodges, visit the park yearly. Today, the town has more than 1,200 residents and its tourism services are becoming insufficient.
This national park protects one of the highest-quality coral reefs with respect to species diversity, area of live coverage, and low incidence of diseases in all the Caribbean. Los Roques harbors about 61 species of corals, 200 species of crustaceans, 140 species of mollusks, 45 species of echinoderms, 60 species of sponges, and 280 species of fish. In addition, 92 bird species, 50 of which are migratory, can be seen in the park. Four globally endangered sea turtle species nest regularly on the islands, including the most important nesting site for Eretmochelys imbricata in Venezuela.
Los Roques is one of the best parks in the country in terms of its conservation, and it boasts an important community of allies; hence, solving its threats is more feasible in comparison with other national parks. Current threats include the lack of adequate personnel and infrastructure, solid waste contamination, wastewater management, and illegal fishing. The growth, both of the tourist industry and the population of Gran Roque, could become a serious threat to the biological integrity of this park, which is why ParksWatch considers it vulnerable. However, implementation of an ambitious insular development project proposed by the Ministry of the Environment could be the solution to these threats.