Tourism brings in around US$182 to $237m a year, so the health of the reef – Belize’s biggest attraction – is vital to the country’s future. WWF and Oceana welcome the move to protect the Belize Barrier Reef from oil exploration, but say more needs to be done.

Belize, home of the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere, has become a world leader in ocean sustainability, following the Belizean government’s adoption of a permanent moratorium on oil activities in its waters. The legislation, which was signed into law on December 29, 2017, marks the first time that a developing country has taken such a major step to protect its oceans from oil exploration and extraction, and places Belize in a tiny minority of countries with similar laws.

This legislation follows the Belize government’s commitment in August 2017 to establish a permanent moratorium on offshore oil activity in its waters, after national and global pressure to preserve the fragile Belize Barrier Reef and its World Heritage site.

This huge step by the Belize Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, comes a year after an international outcry by WWF, Oceana and supporters led to the suspension of seismic oil exploration close to the UNESCO-recognized reef. In 2016, WWF and Oceana led a coalition that successfully campaigned against seismic testing close to the reef. WWF’s campaign to put an end to oil exploration and other harmful activities in the World Heritage site has gained support from 450,000 people around the world.


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