Belize has imposed an indefinite moratorium on oil exploration and extraction in its territorial waters, an action intended to protect the Belize Barrier Reef, a World Heritage Site and 190 mile-long, section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef that stretches from Mexico’s Yucatan, south through the Caribbean waters of Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. Belize sends a strong message to other countries struggling to protect coral reefs from exploitation.
Belize’s economy depends on healthy reefs
This is the first time a developing country has undertaken such a dramatic step to protect its fragile coastline and marine ecosystem. But Belize has much to protect, fully 50% of the country’s population is supported directly or indirectly by fisheries or tourism as reported in the Guardian.
“The reef is critical not only for the tourism industry, which employs one in every four Belizeans, but it also serves as a ‘barrier’ against storm surge and beach erosion, which will only increase with climate change,” said Dana Krauskopf, owner of Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort and a Blue Ocean participant in our 2014 Blue Ocean Summit.
Belize offers some of the world’s most exciting dive destinations including; Glover’s Reef, Lighthouse Reef and the Blue Hole made famous by Jacques Cousteau who considered it one of the world’s top 10 greatest dive sites. (photo – Blue World Journeys)
Economic benefits from its reefs exceeds oil
“The economic potential of the reef clearly exceeds the value of any potential discoveries,” said Ralph Capeling of Splash Dive Center, weighing dive tourism against oil exploitation.
“As an avid diver for over 35 years, I think it would be remarkable for other countries to follow Belize’s lead, and take positive steps like banning offshore oil exploration and drilling,” said John Searle, owner of Sea Sports Belize, adding “I was stunned to learn that President Trump recently decided to make moves to open up previously protected areas off the coast of the US to oil exploration and drilling. I guess he must have a very short memory. Can someone please tweet #deepwaterhorizon?”
More Good News For Belize
Additional good news was delivered in June 2018, as Belizeans and environmentalists worldwide celebrated upon hearing that the Belize Barrier Reef System was removed from UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in Danger. It became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996 and had been placed on the “In Danger” list a decade ago due to oil exploration activities and coastal development.
The public outcry that followed UNESCO’s actions ten years ago galvanized local efforts, supported by a collation including the WWF, Oceana, and the Belize Tourism Industry Association that eventually led to the banning of all offshore oil activities.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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