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Belize says “No!” to offshore oil

Partner story

Photo by Fum Bally from Unsplash

Belize has made history by passing the Petroleum Operations (Offshore Zone Moratorium) Bill, 2017. This means that all operations tied to oil and natural gas drilling in the Caribbean Sea within the country’s borders are permanently blocked, in a move to protect eco-tourism and fisheries.

This historic action was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate, and signed by Belize’s governor-general. It will ensure the protection of marine environments, including the second-longest barrier reef in the world, which runs along Belize’s coast. The 320-mile-long Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Offenders will face a USD 3 million fine and/or two years in prison.

In addition, this law recognises and respects the collective leadership and persistent involvement of tens of thousands of Belizeans for more than seven years on the issue of offshore oil.

This decision is a landmark step forward to protect the Belize Barrier Reef and strengthen marine conservation worldwide. On 22 April, which is International Mother Earth Day – we celebrated with our partners Oceana, WWF and other members of the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage, along with the people of Belize.

“We are so happy to hear this news. The barrier reef is a pillar of national pride and even if one ignores the risk of spill, Belizeans would see few benefits from drilling.”

– Imani Fairweather-Morrison, Oak’s programme officer for small-scale fisheries globally, including Belize.

This grant falls under the Marine Conservation Strategy section of our Environment Programme. We believe that maintaining the health of the oceans is critical for the future of people and the planet. Yet, our oceans are suffering from the compounding threats of overfishing, pollution and climate change. Our strategy builds on past successes and sets in motion cutting-edge initiatives that: promote sustainable development; contribute to the integrity of marine ecosystems; and enhance the wellbeing of coastal and indigenous communities.