The Central American country banned the oil activity in its waters
Belize is one of the smallest countries in the world and the second smallest in continental America, just before El Salvador. The country also has a small population of 380 thousand people. However, despite its size, this nation has become one of the leaders in the fight against climate change.
In the past days, the government of the Central American nation banned the oil activity in its waters to protect their coral reef (the biggest reef in the Western Hemisphere). This means that no one can perform any oil industry activity (such as explorations or exploitations). With the decision, Belize became the first developing country to take this initiative.
In 2015, the Belize's government already banned offshore oil exploration at the Reef Reserve System. Now, the prohibition is in all their waters.
Belize’s Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, welcomed the legislative decision that he promised in August and considered as a victory for conservation and environmental protection.
Chris Gee, WWF's Head of Campaigns, assured that the organization is "delighted that Belize has recognized 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.
WWF also hopes that many other countries will sum to the Belize's initiative and ban their oil activity in their waters. Despite the importance of oil exploitation for many countries, there are also many others that have a bigger income from tourism than from oil.
The environmental benefits
The Belize Barrier Reef is a World Heritage site and, according, to the World Wildlife Fund, is "home to almost 1400 species, including the endangered hawksbill turtle, manatees and six threatened species of shark".
The corals occupied approximately 300 kilometers and make part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second biggest in the world, just behind the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the US), explained that "once the oil comes into contact with corals, it can kill them or impede their reproduction, growth, behavior, and development. The entire reef ecosystem can suffer from an oil spill, affecting the many species of fish, crabs, and other marine invertebrates that live in and around coral reefs"
The change from Oil to Tourism
The decision is not only environmental it is also economic. According to WWF the Belize Barrier reef, is the country "biggest tourist attraction, contributing between US$182 and US$237 million a year. Also, the tourism and the fishing related to the reef, provide income for 190.000 people".
There is still a risk
Despite the advance of this decision, WWF warned that there is still danger for the World Heritage site. Gee asked for actions to strengthen mangrove regulation and limit the sale of public land.
The Coral Reefs play a big role in the marine biodiversity protection. Just as Belize's Barrier, the corals are used for many other species as a home and refugee, and they represent a whole ecosystem.
Latin American Post | Santiago Gómez
Copy edited by Laura Rocha Rueda