Belize’s Barrier Reef has been listed on the World Heritage Sites in Danger since 2009, and is tipped to remain there when the UNESCO World Heritage Committee considering the issue meets next week. So how is Belize’s Government performing in enacting and maintaining policies that help safeguard the reef? Fairly well, according to a six-point scorecard crafted by several environmental organizations, but it could be better. The scorecard’s total rating is 11 points out of 18, or 61 percent. All categories – oil, mangroves, coastal development and tourism, environmental regulation, world heritage value and fisheries were rated between 1 and 2.5 at most based on the recommendations made in the UNESCO Desired State of Conservation Report, with the average score on each being 2 except for environmental regulation, which was rated 1. Vice President of OCEANA in Belize Janelle Chanona spoke of a major factor in keeping the reef safe – formalizing the moratorium on petroleum exploration offshore:
Janelle Chanona,Vice President of OCEANA Belize
“This map help us to tract areas where there are concerns. Roughly this only covers between 13-15% of our marine area. Eighty Five percent of our economic zone and our territorial waters will be vulnerable to offshore oil activity if the moratorium was ever left dead and that’s really the key take away from where we are with oil. There is pressing need for us to get thwe moratorium finalized for the government to finalize under what circumstances that moratorium will be lifted and that’s why we have some concerns regarding progress. We have been having different meetings with various government officials. Our marine resources are under increasing threats from several other things and offshore oil is one more thing that will complicate already existing scenarios.”
The Government has not responded publicly to the UNESCO challenge.