By Benjamin Flowers
The Government of Belize has partnered with the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture to get the Belize Barrier Reef system off the endangered list.
This week Government announced that it has prepared a draft proposal for a “Desired State of Conservation” for the removal of reef from the List of World Heritage in Danger. The draft proposal includes a suggested set of targets and time frame.
The draft came as the result of a technical support mission which UNESCO and the ICCN made to Belize from January 19-23, through funding from the Government of Flanders, (Belgium).
The Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development organized the mission, who held discussions with a wide cross spectrum of fisheries and tourism stakeholders, site managers and government officials. Its members also visited several sites, including the South Water Caye Marine Reserve.
The team also met with Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who expressed his willingness to chart a course forward on important management requirements to secure a future for the reef. Barrow also confirmed that the Government’s policy position on oil exploration is to prohibit oil exploitation within and adjacent to the protected areas in the Belize Barrier Reef System.
The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest reef system in the world. The area, which is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites list, was placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2009 because of concerns on the sale, lease and development of mangrove islands.
The conservation organizations were concerned that the development came without proper regulations ensuring the sustainable management of these areas. The World Heritage Committee expressed its serious concerns about the potential for oil developments within and immediately adjacent to the reef.