Belize takes a huge step forward in marine conservation

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Dean Barrow, Belizean prime minister, impose a permanent moratorium on offshore oil activity in order to protect Belize Barrier Reef. Thus, the country asserts itself as the safeguard of it’s maritime environment, but also for the maintain of tourist industry, true economic engine of the country.

Why was the protection of the coral reef essential?

Coral reefs are a vital element in order to maintain maritime health. Indeed, it aims to absorb wave energy, slows coastal edges corrosion, reduces storm damages etc. The presence of this natural barrier allows the creation of a rich ecosystem between the reefs and the coasts. In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) “In total, coral reef cover about 0,1 percent of the ocean’s but they nurture 25 percent of the world’s marine species”, this highlights the huge biodiversity potential of the reef. However, corals are also extremely fragile. In fact, the slightest change in their natural habitat can cause their extinction. For instance, by being highly sensitive to temperature, corals mortality rate has increased with global warming. Other factors also put them at risk such as sea acidification, overfishing, or pollution. In order to reduce this alarming reef fragility, Belize government has forbidden offshore oil drilling. This decision has been saluted by the WWF.

Belize Barrier Reef, the main tourist attraction

Belize is a developing country heavily dependent on tourism; yet, tourism is mainly assured by the Barrier Reef. Indeed, the Belize coral reef is subscribed since 1996 as World Heritage. It is, according to UNESCO “an outstanding naturel system consisting of the largest barrier reed in the northern hemisphere and represents all the main reef and coastal habitats including rare littoral forest on sand cays that are home to endangered flora and fauna”. Tourism industry is a vital economic source for the country, generating about 200 million dollars per year. It was then more advantageous to prohibit oil exploitation, an economic activity less profitable. However, although Belize has set an excellent example by highlighting environment protection, we hope that it will be able to maintain the delicate balance between the safeguard if it’s coral reef and a respectful tourist activity.

References:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/1393/

http://oceana.org/press-center/press-releases/belize-moratorium-offshore-oil-activity-landmark-step-forward-marine

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2018/jan/14/belize-bans-oil-activity-to-protect-reef-diving-tourism-belize-barrier-reef

https://www.maritime-executive.com/article/belize-bans-offshore-oil-and-gas-exploration#gs.PZPrxUg

image: flickr.com

A propos de Heloise BAERT

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