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BELIZE BANS OFFSHORE DRILLING ALONG BARRIER REEF

01/11/2016

Belize has reversed a plan to allow offshore exploration and drilling and introduced a ban that prohibits these activities in areas within one kilometer of the Belize Barrier Reef system or within World Heritage Sites. The banned areas comprise 15% percent of the country’s marine territory. Belize has a total of seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites within its territory, and they have been on the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger since 2009 because of lack of solid conservation policy. The sites are important habitats for threatened species such as the American crocodile, West Indian manatee, green turtle, hawksbill turtle, and loggerhead turtle. In addition to the ban, the Belizean cabinet agreed that areas outside of the banned acreages could not allow exploration or drilling without stringent environmental studies to determine critical habitats and sensitive zones. Previously, the Belizean government was criticized for granting offshore exploration to oil companies without environmental impact assessments. The Belizean Supreme Court ruled in 2013 against the government because it failed to assess the environmental impact of offshore contracts. That rule resulted in voiding six existing offshore contracts, and no offshore contracts have been awarded since. For the full story, see http://news.mongabay.com/2015/12/belize-bans-offshore-oil-drilling-along-barrier-reef-system/