By Alexis R. Milan, Staff Reporter
The Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage and the Toldeo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) organized a media tour to highlight the threats of offshore oil exploration and shed some light on conservation efforts in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve.
According to Geovanni Brackett, Belize Coalition vice chair said the group continues to advocate and educate on the impacts and risks of offshore oil exploration and drilling by partnering with local communities. Brackett said the Port Honduras Marine Reserve is one of the areas where at risk because of offshore oil exploration and added that many local residents depend on the reserve’s survival for their livelihoods.
“There are those in the government who want to push the idea that with a proper oil spill plan that we can entertain offshore oil exploration, however, we believe that when you compare the risks to the benefits, for us it’s still a no,” Brackett said.
Celia Mahung, TIDE executive director said there are oil concessions that include the Port Honduras marine reserve as well a few other protected areas within the Toledo district, by US Capital Energy and Providence Energy. Mahung said formulating a solid oil spill contingency plan is absolutely necessary before even entertaining offshore oil exploration.
According to Mahung, one positive is that both energy companies have apparently been given concessions in areas that overlap each other and they need to settle that issue before moving forward. She added that they haven’t seen any activity by either company in the area and that bodes well for stakeholders of the protected area.
Fishermen and tour-guides who operate in the area also expressed their concern and discontent with the idea of offshore oil exploration in the area. They use the marine reserve to make their daily living and believe that eco-tourism is the best option for the area because offshore oil exploration exposes the pristine environment to too much risks.