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People’s Referendum on Offshore Oil in Belize is now Law

Landmark Amendment Ensures Referendum Requirement for Any Changes to Offshore Oil Moratorium

Press Release Date: November 13, 2023

Location: City of Belmopan, Belize


Having passed through all stages of the National Assembly, the REFERENDUM (AMENDMENT) BILL 2023 was assented to by the Governor General of Belize, Her Excellency Dame Froyla Tzalam, on Thursday November 9th and published in the Gazette on November 11th, converting the Bill into Law.

This amendment to the Referendum ACT Chapter 10 of the Substantive Laws of Belize 2020, expands the circumstances in which a referendum must be held to include any proposed amendment or repeal, whether express or implied, of the Petroleum Operations (Maritime Zone Moratorium) Act or to any proposed legislation affecting the carrying on of petroleum operations within the limits of the maritime zone of Belize.

This amendment is a direct response to the voices of 22,090 Belizean voters who called for legislative amendments that would require a referendum should government contemplate lifting the moratorium on offshore oil exploration. The amendment has laid the foundation for a profound shift in people’s participation in our Belizean democracy.

“The consistent actions of the Belizean people have led to this pivotal achievement of people power.  We commend the Briceno administration for exerting leadership on this national issue and recognizing the importance of the people’s participation in decision making around a precious resource – our Caribbean Sea”, stated Janelle Chanona, Belize Vice President, Oceana.  “We look forward to promoting this exemplary achievement as an example for the rest of the world to follow.”  

My administration and I remain resolute in our commitment to safeguarding our shared natural heritage. We emphasize that any change to the existing prohibition of offshore petroleum operations will only happen with the overwhelming support of Belizeans through a national referendum”, stated Honourable John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize. “The amendment is a testament to cooperation and collaboration in protecting our invaluable natural resources.


The Government of Belize and Oceana in Belize remain mutually committed to meaningful engagement to focus on the many marine conservation challenges that require immediate collaborative action.


Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one-third of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 225 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution, and the killing of threatened species like turtles and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that 1 billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit www.oceana.org to learn more.