The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System has officially been removed from the UNESCO World Heritage Center List of World Heritage in Danger. The decision came after Belize’s dossier was tabled and the matter was heard by the World Heritage Committee in Bahrain today. Fanny Douvere, Coordinator of the Marine Program at the World Heritage Centre at UNESCO, said quote, “The removal of the Belize World Heritage Site from the in danger list is the result of Belize putting in place the necessary protections for the Belize Barrier Reef. Working together with international organizations and civil society, it was able to identify and take the actions needed to secure this incredible site from immediate threats, and create a collaborative model that others can follow,” end of quote. Immediately after the announcement was made, groups leading the conservation efforts in the county such as Oceania and the World Wildlife Fund, WWF, responded with celebration. Oceana Belize’s Vice President Janelle Chanona told Love News the achievement is significant for Belize and Belizeans.
Oceana Belize’s Vice President Janelle Chanona: Today is definitely a date that we should celebrate as people, as a country, all over the world people who love Belize I am sure will be ecstatic at this announcement. Belize got its World Heritage site in 1996 but since 2009 we have been on this list and I think it’s really important to call out that in just 12 months the leadership from the government and people of Belize put together a package of Legislative changes that convince the comity that we are serious about being excellent Stuarts of this globally significant resource so you look at the offshore oil moratorium that came into being December 2017 as recently as June 23rd, last Saturday stronger mangrove protections came into play. We are also seeing the government internationally committing to stopping the sale of public lands within the old heritage site and looking at checking on sustainable coastal development and tourism offshore so I think it’s really a tremendous indicator that collective leadership, a collaboration and an active public really can change the world and change the world for a better and this what happens when we get together and do the right things for the right reasons. We depend on these resources every single day, we are now well into the Atlantic Hurricane Season and our reef will be there to defend us as long as we take care of it so not just this hurricane season but all future hurricane seasons, we can continue to get food from it, clean water, fresh air, it is such a critical part of everyday life. It is tremendously significant because you look at what the resources mean in terms of the financial landscape, you look at it in terms of fisheries, tourism and just in terms of cultural identity.
Chanona adds that Belize sets a precedent for other countries in conservation, especially when considering the achievement of an offshore oil moratorium that was passed in December last year. This made Belize one in three countries globally to pass such legislation. Director General of WWF-International, Marco Lambertini, is quoted as saying, “We have seen an incredible turnaround from when the reef was being threatened by seismic testing for oil just eighteen months ago. Belizeans stood up to protect their reef…. In taking swift collaborative action, Belize has shown that it is possible to reverse nature loss and create a sustainable future.” Love News spoke with Deseree Arzu, Communications Coordinator at the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Deseree Arzu, Communications Coordinator at the Wildlife Conservation Society: In Belize how we went about working towards that is that we had and Ad Hoc WHAC comity. We call it the Word Heritage Site Comity who came together back in 2016 to look at some of the like I mentioned earlier the desired state of conservation measures we need to take in order to get off that list so these organizations have been working since 2016 effortlessly to get Belize off that list and so today was the result of all that hard work since 2016 that these organizations put in to get Belize off that list so now we are officially off but I have to say here that it’s not just that we are off , we have to stay off and continue to do things that are very sustainable in terms of our Belize Barrier Reef reserve system.
Deputy Prime Minister, Patrick Faber and Minister of Environment, Dr. Omar Figueroa headed Belize’s delegation to the Meeting.