UNESCO has removed the Belize Barrier Reef from its list of endangered World Heritage Sites.
The reef, the second largest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, was added to the endangered list nine years ago. Since then, UNESCO says the Belize government has taken “visionary” steps to preserve it.
In 2009, plans were put in place to allow oil exploration in neighbouring waters, which resulted in UNESCO putting the reef on the endangered list. In 2012, an informal referendum by environmentalists saw 96% vote against offshore oil activity. Finally, at the end of 2017 lawmakers passed a moratorium on oil exploration in Belize’s waters.
The Belize Barrier Reef is home to plenty of threatened wildlife, including manatees, turtles, and several species of sharks. UNESCO has praised Belize’s “visionary plan to manage the coastline.”
Controversially, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has not been added to UNESCO’s endangered list, after the body argued sufficient conservation steps were being taken. That’s despite the reef having lost half its coral cover in the past thirty years. There’s plenty of things travellers can do to help protect the Great Barrier Reef. The success of conservation efforts in Belize show it isn’t a lost cause.