Here is some good news! The world’s second largest reef, the Belize Barrier Reef has been dropped from the United Nation’s list of “endangered” world heritage sites. There are 54 natural and cultural sites of the United Nation’s endangered list. The list includes lakes, gardens, churches, forts across the world.
Okay for starters let’s find Belize on a map. It is a country in Central America. Formerly known as British Honduras, it was a British Colony and only became an independent country in 1981. The barrier reef runs parallel to the eastern coast of the country, in the Carribean Sea.
The Belize Barrier Reef is second in size to the Great Barrier Reef. This long reef is home to 1400 species of marine life. Fish, octopus, lobster, shellfish, coral, stingrays and vulnerable species of shark, sea turtle and West Indian manatee all inhabit this special place.
Due to the incredible diversity of life it supports, the reef was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1996.
Unfortunately, the Belizean government allowed companies to drill for oil near the coast. This along with other activities such as waterfront development and global warming hurt the fragile reefs. Thus in 2009, the United Nations added it to the list of heritage sites in danger! Belizeans, WWF, Oceana and other organizations across the world rallied to protect the reef.
Why is it important to protect the reef?
The reef is the primary source of food for Belize. It is also a large source of income as it draws tourists interested in scuba diving and snorkeling. As the reef runs parallel to the nation, it also serves as a natural break from large waves and thus a barrier against extreme weather.
What measures have been taken to save and sustain the reef?
Belize’s government has taken a quick action to protect their jewel. Some of the measures include passing a law in 2017 banning offshore gas and oil drilling. This was a huge step as the Belizeans chose to protect their environment over making all that money from oil! The government is also preventing the destruction of coastal mangrove forests.
The next step is to implement a ban on single-use plastics like plastic bags, straws, plastic food containers that threaten species in the reef.
Contributed by: Biyash Choksey