Protecting Belize’s natural resources from the inherent dangers of offshore oil
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Oceana remains committed to ensuring that the legislation offshore drilling in Belize’s waters remains in force.
In February 2010, a map was released by the Geology and Petroleum Department confirmingthat massive oil exploration concessions had been granted throughout the country of Belize — including in marine reserves and national parks.
Offshore drilling of this magnitude would be devastating to Belize’s tourism and fishing industry, our marine food security and the viability of coastal communities. Oceana believes the process should be transparent, with input from all relevant parties and the general public.
In December 2011, The Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage through Oceana in Belize triggered the Referendum for offshore oil exploration and drilling by delivering over 18,000 signatures to the Governor General’s office. In a historic response, the second step in the referendum process had been approved, as the 18,000 plus signatures were forwarded to the Chief Elections Officer for vetting.
In February 2012, approximately 30,000 Belizeans voluntarily turned up to 51 polling stations across the country to make their position on offshore oil exploration in Belize known – an event now known as ‘the People’s Referendum’. Out of all the persons polled, 96% voted NO to offshore oil drilling in Belize’s waters.
In May 2015, the Government of Belize withdrew its appeal against Justice’s Oswald Legall’s April 2013 legal ruling that oil concessions are null and void andruling in favor of Oceana, COLA and the Belize Coalition in their law suit challenging six (6) Production Sharing Agreements allowing offshore oil drilling. This withdrawal by the GOB, demonstrated its commitment to protecting marine resources and Belizean livelihoods.
In June 2015, Oceana suggested several conditions to the Government of Belize for consideration before the moratorium would be lifted. These conditions sought to ensure that any and all measures would be taken in the event of any offshore petroleum operations, including a referendum for the people of Belize to approve lifting the moratorium.
In December 2015, the Government of Belize announced plans via press release to permanently ban offshore oil exploration along the Belize Barrier Reef System. The decision taken by the Government of Belize reflected its recognition of what the people of Belize have been asking for years: the protection of job security, food security and cultural identity.
In August 2017, the Government of Belize announced its commitment and plan to legislate an indefinite moratorium on offshore oil activity in Belize’s territorial sea including its Exclusive Economic Zone.
In October 2017, Belize made history by introducing legislation to enshrine an indefinite moratorium on offshore oil in its marine territory, including territorial seas and Exclusive Economic Zone.
In December 2017, Belize made history once again by unanimously passing the Petroleum Operations (Offshore Zone Moratorium) Bill, 2017 which placed an indefinite moratorium on offshore oil in Belize’s marine territory.
This action continues to safeguard Belize’s invaluable marine environments including the second longest barrier reef in the world, which runs along Belize’s coast. Just as importantly, this law recognizes 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.
Oceana has been an unwavering supporter of this call of the Belizean people since it began in the aftermath of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 and within the reality that Belize’s entire offshore area had already been sold as oil concession licenses. Following the announcement in 2017, Oceana’s Vice President for Belize Janelle Chanona said, “This is truly ‘The People’s Law’. Belizeans have remained steadfast in their opposition to offshore oil since they became aware that marine assets were at risk of irreversible damage from the offshore oil industry.”
Oceana remains committed to ensuring that the legislation remains in force.
Belize Says “No!” to Offshore Oil
Belize made history by unanimously passing the Petroleum Operations (Offshore Zone Moratorium) Bill, 2017 which will place an indefinite moratorium on offshore oil in Belize’s marine territory. This decision was welcomed by Oceana, WWF, and other members of the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage as a landmark step forward to protect the Belize Barrier Reef and strengthen marine conservation worldwide.
This action is historic given Belize’s economic dependence on its natural resources and will safeguard invaluable marine environments including the second longest barrier reef in the world, which runs along Belize’s coast. Just as importantly, this law recognizes 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.
Government of Belize Announces Protections for Barrier Reef and World Heritage Sites from Oil Exploration
The Government of Belize announced its intention to impose a permanent ban on offshore oil exploration along the Belizean Barrier Reef System, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Belizean Barrier Reef is the largest section of the Mesoamerican barrier reef, the biggest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and home to some of the most biologically diverse marine ecosystems on the planet. The government’s announcement marked a big step forward for the people of Belize, Oceana and ocean advocates everywhere.
Oceana, along with other Belizean organizations, successfully won judgments from Belizean courts that the permits issued by the government that allowed drilling violated Belizean environmental law. This judgment led to an initial moratorium on offshore drilling.
In addition, working with other organizations in the country, Oceana’s team founded the Belize Coalition to Save Our National Heritage in December 2011. This coalition, which began with seven member organizations and grew to include 40 different groups, ultimately delivered more than 18,000 signatures to the Governor General’s office calling for a referendum on offshore oil drilling and exploration.
When just enough signatures were disqualified to prevent triggering an official referendum, the Coalition organized a national referendum of its own called “The People’s Referendum.” This initiative gave Belizeans an opportunity to vote on the issue, and they responded overwhelmingly. Approximately 30,000 Belizeans participated – with 96% voting against offshore oil activity.
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Source: Ambergris Today