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In what the UNESCO World Heritage Centre is calling a "major milestone," the Government of Belize has put into effect a full stop on all offshore oil exploration. Including activity within the region that makes up the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage site.
"The World Heritage Committee has always taken a strong position that oil and gas exploration or exploitation activities are incompatible with World Heritage status. This moratorium is fully in line with this," said Mechtild Rössler, Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. "I would like to congratulate the Belize Government for its leadership and thank both civil society and the government for working tirelessly hand-in-hand to safeguard this site for future generations. This demonstrates that by working together, we can take powerful action to protect our irreplaceable marine sites."
Excellent news!#Belize has adopted a full oil moratorium for all its offshore waters, including the entire Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System.https://t.co/1jS0GMYVA4pic.twitter.com/h4bR0B0949- UNESCO (@UNESCO) January 13, 2018
Excellent news!#Belize has adopted a full oil moratorium for all its offshore waters, including the entire Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System.https://t.co/1jS0GMYVA4pic.twitter.com/h4bR0B0949
The World Wildlife Fund is also hailing the new legislation, calling Belize a "world leader in ocean protection."
"The Belize Barrier Reef is both home to an incredible number of species and vital to Belize's economy, which is heavily reliant on reef-based tourism and fishing," wrote the WWF in a statement on its website. "By acting to remove a major threat to the reef, Belize is safeguarding its future prosperity. We hope this bold step will encourage other countries to follow suit and take the urgent actions needed to protect our planet's oceans."
"Today is a great day for Belize." Thank you to over 450,000 WWF supporters from around the world who took action and spoke up to protect the Belize Barrier Reef! https://t.co/nuyWDs3c6M- WWF Action Team (@wwf_act) January 5, 2018
"Today is a great day for Belize." Thank you to over 450,000 WWF supporters from around the world who took action and spoke up to protect the Belize Barrier Reef! https://t.co/nuyWDs3c6M
The Belize reef system, which was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1996, is the second-largest reef system in the world-second only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The reef is home to some 1,400 different species of wildlife including manatees, rays, marine turtles, six threatened shark species and the American marine crocodile. Further, the reef supports the livelihood of some 200,000 Belizeans according to UNESCO.
[READMORE]READ MORE: Belize's Time is Now[/READMORE]
The reef is also a popular draw for visitors, as it houses some of the world's most spectacular diving sites, including the Great Blue Hole and Glover's Reef, which is also a World Heritage Site.
"The reef is critical not only for the tourism industry, which employs one in every four Belizeans but it also serves as a 'barrier' against storm surge and beach erosion, which will only increase with climate change," said Dana Krauskopf, the owner of HamanRasi Adventure and Dive Resort in an interview with The Guardian.
Belize has seen a surge in popularity among visitors, recording a 13 percent increase in visitors last year. Luxury hotels are beginning to take notice as well, with Hilton Hotels & Resorts and the luxurious new Itz'ana Resort & Residence recently planting a flag there.
Interested travel agents can enroll in the new Travel Agent Academy Belize course to learn more about selling this exciting Central American destination.
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Monica Poling, the evening and weekend editor at TravelPulse.com, has been writing about travel for more than 20 years....
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