Thursday, February 08, 2018

Belize Steps Up

Belize has the longest coral reef in the western hemisphere.  Its government has acted to prohibit oil and gas development offshore to protect natural heritage and the fishing industry.  In contrast, Trumpy has exposed all of America's coasts to exploitation by oil companies.  The Mesoamerican Reef, which runs along Belize's Caribbean coast, stretches from the northern tip of Yucatan to the Honduran Bay islands and is a UNESCO world heritage site.  The new law imposes a fine of up to $3 million, or two years imprisonment, or both for violations of the ban.

Putting the reef off limits has its costs.  Belize let 18 different concessions for oil exploration.  The national company, Belize Natural Energy, is the only company producing oil from offshore since its discovery in 2005.  The Deepwater Horizon disaster gave officials pause in the rush to explore for oil.  Also, a significant legal victory for conservationists, which declared six oil concession contracts null and void, energized the movement to place the entire reef under protection.   Activists went country-wide generating support, and a public referendum was held that supported protection.  The reef is home to innumerable endangered species including the West Indian manatee, three species of sea turtle [photo credit: Adam], and the American crocodile.  Moreover, the Belizian economy is based on tourism,  estimated to bring in $237 million annually; by protecting Nature, Belize has guaranteed its economic future.  Green Kudos to Belize for its far-sighted decision!