Sixty-two of the natural World Heritage Sites are now at risk from the impact of climate change, a number which has nearly doubled in just three years.
If we need evidence of the growing impact humans are having on the environment, look no further than the 241 UNESCO Natural (or mixed Cultural and Natural) World Heritage Sites, those sites of outstanding universal value containing ‘areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance’, ‘outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history’, ‘outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes’, or containing ‘the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity’. In 2014, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) signalled that thirty-five of these sites were threatened by climate change. Just three years later, this number has rapidly escalated, with at least sixty-two now indicated to be at risk.
Marine conservationists and environmental activists in the Central American country of Belize are celebrating the promise made in August by that country’s prime minister to enact legislation banning offshore oil activity around the Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to more than 500 species of fish and 60 species of coral.
The announcement of legislation to enforce a moratorium by Prime Minister Dean Barrow follows public outrage and mobilization by the NGO Oceana Belize, after a ship owned by the multinational firm TGS was spotted conducting seismic soundings for oil around the barrier reef late last year, according to an Oceana press release. TGS has its operational headquarters in Houston, Texas, and conducts seismic surveys and gathers data for oil and gas companies worldwide
Report reveals improvement but also details danger posed by tourist-generated pollution, oil extraction and climate change.
Just below the surface of the turquoise sea, coral flutters majestically amid schools of puffed up porcupinefish and fluorescent blue and yellow angelfish.
The gangly staghorn and fanning elkhorn corals are thriving in swimming distance of Laughing Bird Caye, a tiny Caribbean sandy islet in southern Belize, thanks to a restoration project that is yielding striking results.
More than 90,000 corals grown in sea nurseries have been planted in shallow reefs, increasing coral cover in these southern warm waters by 35%. Marine creatures are reproducing, and about 90% have survived natural and manmade pressures for almost a decade.
During my six years with UNESCO’s World Heritage Marine Programme, I have had the privilege of visiting some of the world’s most beloved ocean places, including Cabo Pulmo, Lagoons of New Caledonia, Belize Barrier Reef, Coiba National Park, Tubbataha Reefs, and the Great Barrier Reef. Field visits are integral to our work, as we are constantly trying to understand the health of these rare places, and forge solutions with local and national governments.
I have had the opportunity to explore thriving coral reefs, treasure troves full of life and breathtaking beauty and color — unlike anything else I’ve experienced. But like many of us, I have also watched with growing unease how the devastating heat wave that gripped the world’s oceans over the past three years wrought havoc in 21 out of the 29 globally-significant reefs on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), in a report this week, called out the government of Belize for its failure to implement legislation drafted to protect the Belize Barrier Reef from the threat of offshore oil drilling and damaging coastal construction.
WWF joins other non-government organizations including Oceana in calling on government to deliver on a promise it made in 2015. The Barrow administration committed to UNESCO that the necessary measures to ensure the reef’s protection would be implemented by December 2016.
“Seven months on, Belize has not delivered on its promise to protect the Belize Barrier Reef. Instead this remarkable ecosystem – vital to both wildlife and the country’s economy – remains under threat. We urge Belize’s government to act immediately to safeguard the reef for future generations,”said Nadia Bood, Mesoamerican Reef Scientist at WWF in Belize.
Belmopan, Belize, 28 June 2017 – The Belizean government has failed to implement promised protections for the Belize Barrier Reef World Heritage site, according to a WWF assessment published today, leaving the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere under threat from offshore oil drilling and damaging coastal construction. Seismic testing for oil was attempted just one kilometre from the World Heritage site as recently as October 2016.
Coming less than a week before the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee begins in Krakow, WWF, as part of the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage, assessed progress on a number of protections identified by UNESCO as essential to the reef’s long-term survival. The Belizean government committed to UNESCO in 2015 that the necessary measures to ensure the reef’s protection would be implemented by December 2016.
It is 15 years ago and still I remember it as if it had been this morning. My first dive in the ocean – a submersion into a fairy-tale world of flabbergasting colours, corals of all shapes and forms, fish I hadn’t even found in the Aquarium and that time-less beauty of weightlessness. In total connection with my breath, I have blissfully floated through many a world’s best diving sites since, from shallow to up to 30 metres. Let me share some of my favourites with you.
No diving bucket list would be complete without the famous great blue hole in Central America’s Belize. The circular 300 metres wide and 125 metres deep submarine sinkhole is part of the larger Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is outlined by coral reef and inhabited by Caribbean Reef Sharks and the occasional Hammerhead.
Hey Castaways, if you loving diving and love Belize, then you’re going to enjoy this guest post by Joe Black. Cheers!
I’m Joe, I run Nature Rated. I love spending time in the outdoors. Whenever daily life gets me down I head to the nearest lake or river with my kayak and my camera and I spend time recharging my batteries. I hope you’ll love my no fluff to the point reviews and that they’ll help you choose the right gear for your next adventure!
It is one thing to visit and dive in the Belize Barrier Reef. It’s another to understand what makes this destination one of the Great Wonders of the World. Before you put on your snorkel gear, test your knowledge and see how many of the facts below you already know.
They were one of the star turns in BBC’s epic Planet Earth 2 – the tiny hawksbill turtles saved from near certain death as they struggled to find their way to sea. Their odds of surviving from hatchling to fully grown adult are minuscule, and only one out of a thousand is expected to survive, the programme explained.
One place where the threatened hawksbill turtles are thriving however, is in the protected waters of Glover’s Reef Atoll off the coast of Belize. Conservation efforts there in recent years are proving incredibly successful with the most recent count in the coral reefs finding more than 1000 juveniles living there.
Glover’s Reef – named after two infamous pirate brothers – is one of the world’s great barrier reef systems and is a UNESCO world heritage site. The area is also important to Belize’s fishing economy and turtle numbers had been declining until a major conservation project began.
December marks the 20th anniversary of the UNESCO World Heritage listing of seven protected areas along Belize’s barrier reef. Local celebrations for these coral atolls, mangrove forests and vibrant underwater landscapes are tinged with concern: These unique places face many manmade threats, and have been listed as ‘World Heritage in Danger’ since 2009. Now, armed with new legislation, sustainable tourism ventures — and in some cases, scuba gear — Belizeans are fighting to safeguard their reef for the long haul.
The Belizean reef, which stretches into neighboring Mexico and Honduras, is over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from tip to tip — making it the world’s longest reef after the Great Barrier Reef. But its size hasn’t shielded it from human harms.
In 2009, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage in Danger.