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Cabinet announces Policy Against Offshore Oil Exploration

The Cabinet met in regular session today in Belmopan and coming out of that meeting was a policy that will legally place a ban on offshore exploration in areas along the Belize Barrier Reef System as well as within the seven World Heritage Sites in Belize.  It is indeed good news for the organizations and environmental lobbyists.  The seven World Heritage Sites where offshore exploration is being banned are Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve and National Park; Caye Caulker Marine Reserve and National Park; Lighthouse Reef Natural Monument; South Water Caye Marine Reserve; Laughing Bird Caye National Park; Glovers Reef Marine Reserve and the Sapodilla Caye Marine Reserve.  In total, there will be four hundred and forty eight square miles that are to be unaffected by oil explorations.  In addition to that, the Cabinet has agreed to ban offshore exploration within one kilometre on either side of the Belizean Barrier Reef System, resulting in an additional 868 square miles falling under the offshore exploration ban. The total area covered by the ban is 842,714 acres or 1,316 square miles.  According to a release coming out of the Government’s Press Office, Cabinet further agreed that areas that fall outside of the large acreages banned, would not automatically allow for seismic activities and exploration drilling without conducting the existing stringent environmental studies to determine critical habitats and sensitive zones. The required environmental studies would then further give guidance to areas outside the ban, to scientifically determine the type and nature of exploration that can occur in these explorable areas.  The release ended by saying that the decision by Cabinet demonstrates government’s resolve in ensuring the continued protection of Belize’s Barrier Reef System and its seven World Heritage Sites.