Most of you will have heard of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, but have you heard of the Belize Barrier Reef? This beautiful World Heritage site is the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere, and is home to almost 1,400 species, including the endangered hawksbill turtle, manatees and six threatened species of shark. It is also Belize's biggest tourist attraction, contributing between $182m and $237m a year to its economy.
In recognition of the biological and cultural importance of this reef, Belize today announced the end to oil exploration in its waters, becoming a world leader in ocean protection. Since 2009, the Belize Barrier Reef has been on UNESCO's World Heritage Sites In Danger List, but it is hoped that this bold move from the Belizean Government will bring it closer to being removed from the list when the UNESCO World Heritage Committee make their recommendations in June this year.
Chris Gee, our Head of Campaigns, shares that “we’re delighted that Belize has recognised the importance of preserving the Barrier Reef by removing some of the major risks that threaten its future. The site is the jewel in Belize’s crown, and vital to the country’s future prosperity. Properly managed the World Heritage site will benefit people for generations to come." While the law regarding offshore oil activity will be significant progress, urgent action is still needed to strengthen mangrove regulation and limit the sale of public land in the World Heritage site.
Thanks to hundreds of thousands of people speaking out around the world, the Belize Barrier Reef is now finally safe from the threat of oil exploration. If you were one of them, join us and celebrate by sharing this news on social media!