Belize standing tough to protect its coral barrier

The Barrier Reef of Belize was removed from the List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Danger

Belize put on its pants to protect its coral barrier

The Belize Barrier Reef has been recognized as a World Heritage Site since 1996 by UNESCO, but was included in the list of sites at risk for various threats against it. Its retirement was a coordinated work between several institutions, the government of Belize, and civil society.

"The removal of the Belize World Heritage Site from the list at risk is the result of Belize having implemented the necessary protections for the Barrier Reef. Working together with international organizations and civil society, it managed to identify and take the necessary actions to ensure the protection of this incredible site and against immediate threats and create a collaborative model that others can follow," said Fanny Douvere, Coordinator of the Marine Program of the UNESCO World Heritage Center.

Leer en español: Belice se puso los pantalones para proteger su barrera de coral



A UNESCO shared publication (@unesco) on

A bit of context

The Mesoamerican coral reef has more than 60 different coral species and more than 500 different species of fish and covers several countries, from Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, to Honduras. This extends for more than 700 kilometers and Belize decided to protect them.

During the last year and a half, this nation adopted protective measures necessary for the exclusion of the coral reef from the list of UNESCO heritage sites in danger. One of the most forceful and necessary measures to achieve this was to declare the moratorium for the exploration of hydrocarbons in its coasts in December 2017.

Seismic tests for the exploration and exploitation of oil right on the coasts of the Central American country, set off the alarms of the civil society that rejected the extractive practices that put at risk the second largest coral barrier in the world after the great barrier of Australia.

The importance of corals

In June 2018, the Belizean government enacted important regulations to protect the country's mangroves and undertook to legislate the current voluntary moratorium on the sale of public lands within this World Heritage site.

However, not only the oil exploitation on the coasts of the Central American country would have endangered the great barrier reef. For more than a decade, this world heritage site was declared endangered due to coastal constructions that are harmful to the environment. Several hotels tried to advance mega construction on the coasts of this country with practices that could affect corals.

Also read: Chiribiquete: From "Sistine Chapel of the Amazon" to a World Heritage Site of UNESCO

For ecosystems as fragile as corals, any oil spill would affect the white sand cays and the transparency of the water, threatening the coral reefs that protect against hurricanes, waves and rising sea levels.

The coral ecosystem is one of the most prolific in the world in terms of biological diversity and resources derived from its healthy functioning, providing shelter to thousands of animal and plant species in a perfect chain in which the exchange of matter and energy flows freely among its members.

In addition, coral reefs are natural barriers that stop large swells from hurricanes and tropical storms. The reefs are providers of important fishing resources for mollusks, crustaceans and fish, being the livelihood of millions of people around the world.

In order for life on the coral reef to be possible, three specific conditions must be met:

  1. Sufficient water salinity
  2. Transparency
  3. Adequate temperature

Conditions that would be clearly altered by the construction of hotels on the coast that do not meet the necessary characteristics and of course the seismic for the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons and their associated activities.

"At a time when we see numerous threats to World Heritage sites, the government of Belize has taken real action to protect one of the most special places in the world," said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF. This organization led, together with the Association of the Tourist Industry of Belize, Audubon Society of Belize, the Institute for Legislation and Environmental Policy and of course civil society.


LatinAmerican Post | Alberto Castaño
Translated from “Belice se puso los pantalones para proteger su barrera de coral”


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