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Belize May Remain on List of Endangered Heritage Sites

The Barrier Reef of Belize has been on the list of World Heritage Sites considered in danger since June 2009. The world Heritage Committee will be meeting in Isntanbul, Turkey on July 10 to discuss the status of various World Heritage Sites including Belize’s Barrier Reef. This week, however, international attention shed light on the vulnerability of the Barrier Reef. A draft decision preceding the meeting in Istanbul, released on June 10 by UNESCO hinted that Belize might continue on the endangered sites list. This is due to the fact that several deadlines to meet required indicators outlined by UNESCO have been missed although the Government of Belize affirmed its resolve to ensuring the continued protection of Belize’s Barrier Reef System.  Two primary concerns are that the offshore oil ban announced last year still requires legislative support and the offshore oil ban that was extended to one kilometer remains inadequate since a spill outside the one kilometer ban could still compromise the Heritage Site. This year, the World Wildlife Foundation started a campaign to call for greater protection of the Belize Barrier Reef from harmful industrial activities such as oil, gas and mining operations, and large-scale infrastructure projects. Over 120,000 persons, from all over the world, have sent emails to the Prime Minister of Belize, calling for better protection of the Barrier Reef.   “If adopted by the World Heritage Committee next month, this decision would send a message that more needs to be done”, said WWF’s Reef Scientist and Climate Change Officer in Belize, Nadia Bood. The WWF calls for two urgent actions from the government for better protection of the invaluable Reserve System that is the Barrier Reef. The recommendations are a full ban on offshore oil exploration and the adoption of revised Mangrove Regulations that serve to protect the Barrier Reef.