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Since 2001, Oceana has achieved hundreds of concrete policy victories for marine life and habitats. From stopping bottom trawling in sensitive habitat areas to protecting sea turtles from commercial fishing gear, our victories represent a new hope for the world's oceans.

November, 2023

People’s Referendum on Offshore Oil Exploration and Exploitation in Belize is Now Law

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.

November, 2020

Belize Bans Possession and Use of Gillnets in Belizean Waters

In a landmark decision to protect livelihoods and strengthen marine conservation, the Government of Belize passed the Statutory Instrument 158 of 2020 titled Fisheries Resources (Gill Net Prohibition) Regulations 2020. This legislation bans the possession and use of gillnets in Belize’s marine territorial seas, Exclusive Economic Zone and internal waters. This legislation also rendered all gillnet licenses invalid.

January, 2020

Belize Phases Out Single-Use Plastics and Styrofoam

The Minister of Environment signed into law the Environmental Protection (Pollution from Plastics) Resolution, which will phase out single-use plastics, including shopping bags, food utensils, and Styrofoam.

The measure was enacted to reduce pollution of Belize’s famed barrier reef and other natural resources.

This decision comes after years of campaigning by Oceana and our allies, including thousands of Belizeans who participated in numerous plastic clean-ups and have seen the devastating impacts of plastic pollution on the country’s ocean and waterways.

December, 2017

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.

December, 2015

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.