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.
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.
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.
A Poll to Measure People’s Perception on Oil Exploration and Drilling in Offshore Areas
A random sample was selected of 4000 countrywide participants employing statistical technique simple random sampling employing random application software. The application included a database of landlines countrywide. Other statistical techniques were employed to ensure proportional representation of sample per target population per each district to ensure validity of results. The poll was conducted via telephone and interviews were conducted by a team of trained interviewees.
An instrument was created which included 7 questions measuring the major constructs pertaining to perceptions on oil exploration and drilling in offshore areas. The instrument was tested employing face validity and other statistical tests to validate reliability of results. Sample of the instrument is available for testing purposes.
The analysis was conducted employing SPSS (Statistical Package for Social Scientist) and included mainly frequencies and cross tabulations within each construct and variables of interest. All results are shown in graphs and tabular statistical tables. Tests were conducted within a confidence interval of 95% ( a margin of error of + – 5%).
SATIIM and Indigenous Mayan Communities Supreme Court Victory is a Victory for all Belizeans
The Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage and Oceana in Belize salute the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) for its ongoing efforts to have the indigenous rights of the Maya of Southern Belize respected. Madam Justice Michelle Arana’s historic ruling on April 3’d 2014 affirmed those rights when the Supreme Court found that while the Government of Belize has the right to issue permits to explore for oil and even drill, they must consult with the members of the affected indigenous communities to determine what activities can happen on their lands as well as the forms of compensation to follow.
The lesson all Belizeans should take away from this issue is that we all have the inherent right to be part of a consultative and participatory process in the management of our resources–especially when political policies have the potential to cause irrevocable damage.