A world heritage site and the second largest coral reef in the world is not endangered anymore. After 9 years of concerns, UNESCO has decided to remove the Belize Barrier Reef from its “in danger” list. At the same time, the government of Belize was prized for its efforts to preserve this wonder of the nature.
The second largest coral reef in the world
Second only to the Great Barrier Reef from Australia, the Belize Barrier Reef has long been known for its remarkable beauty. Praised by Charles Darwin amongst others, it is inhabited by countless endangered species, such as tropical fish, manatees, sea turtles, sharks and the American crocodile. It is not a surprise that the reef is a very popular destination for tourists, especially those who enjoy scuba diving and snorkeling.
Threatened by oil exploration
The governing body of the World Heritage Sites, UNESCO added Belize’s reef to this list in 1996, however, in 2009 the site was declared to be in danger. Such decision was made due to plans of Belize’s government to give concessions to oil companies, allowing them to explore the country’s waters in search for resources.
How the Belize Barrier Reef was saved
The decision to allow potential oil exploration in waters surrounding the reef was heavily criticized not only by UNESCO, but also by the citizens of Belize. In an informal referendum, organized by environmentalists in 2012, 96% of participants voted against any industrial activity in Belize’s waters. This made the government to rethink its nature preservation policies, which resulted in a landmark moratorium on oil exploration, passed in December 2017.
Declaring the removal of the Belize Barrier Reef from the “in danger” list, UNESCO praised Belize for the visionary steps the country has taken in order to protect this wonder of the nature.