Victory | December 1, 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.