According to an article in Eturbo News in July, Belize tourism is continuing on an upward trend. One of the reasons for this unbroken upswing is the lure of Belize’s greatest attraction, the Belize Barrier Reef.
The reef is the most intact coral reef within the Northern Hemisphere. It’s comprised of seven key marine zones, over four hundred cays, several lagoons, estuaries, mangroves and three atolls. One of those atolls includes the famous Great Blue Hole.
The reef is also large. It’s 185 miles in length running all along the long coast of the entire country and is second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Back in 1996, to the delight of many, UNESCO added the Belize Barrier Reef to its list of World Heritage sites.
Yet just over a decade later, in 2009, UNESCO sparked a national debate when they added the site to their list of world heritage sites that are in danger.
Since that time both Belizean citizens and government officials have been discussing how to approach the problem. As the main attraction driving tourism, the country has an economic incentive to preserve the reef, as its destruction could have a devasting effect.
In 2012 there was a referendum in which 90% of respondents called for a moratorium on offshore oil drilling – the main cause of reef destruction. It’s taken a few years, but in December of last year, the government issued a total ban on oil drilling in Belize waters. It’s one of the few countries in the world to take such action.
The country is also working to discourage deforestation and they’re put in place seven protected marine reserves. All of this is having the cumulative effect of preserving both the beauty and the survival of this natural resource.
UNESCO took notice. In June of this year the World Heritage Committee removed the Belize Barrier Reef from its list of sites in danger. Belize is now enjoying the status of being an environmentally conscious example to the world.
Brett Renee Stone is a managing partner and director of communications for Palm Reef Resort.