Belize is fringed by a vibrant expanse of residing coral, generally known as the Mesoamerican Reef System. It’s a Caribbean underwater paradise—a snorkeler’s dream and an endangered sea turtle’s lifeline. Stretching from Mexico to Guatemala, it consists of the world’s second-largest barrier reef, behind the Nice Barrier Reef in Australia. Whereas Belize bestowed strict protections on sea turtles in 2002, they’ll’t survive with out coral and seagrass. Finally, conservation that advantages turtles boosts the well being of the whole ecosystem.
The Belize Barrier Reef grew to become a UNESCO World Heritage Website in 1996, and at this time WWF is pushing for higher administration of this ecological treasure. The atolls, sand cayes, mangroves, and coastal lagoons are residence to 70 laborious corals, 36 mushy corals, 500 fish species, and three sorts of nesting sea turtles. Whereas poaching stays a direct menace, turtles face an ongoing onslaught from local weather change and an uptick in coastal improvement. However WWF’s persistent stress for nesting web site safety, and cutting-edge reef restoration tasks just like the coral fragments being planted at Laughing Chook Caye, are working. Belize’s turtle populations are stabilizing—and in some spots, they’re rising. Nice hope rises as extra egg clutches per feminine are counted every season. Nest monitoring is a long-haul venture, particularly as half the nation’s inhabitants depends on the reef for his or her livelihoods. However proper now, extra inexperienced turtles, loggerheads, and hawksbills are rising from Belize’s shell of conservation.
A Lifeline to Sea Turtles
Sea turtles are a elementary hyperlink in marine ecosystems. They assist keep the well being of seagrass beds and coral reefs that profit commercially helpful species akin to shrimp, lobster, and tuna. Sea turtles are the stay representatives of a bunch of reptiles which have existed on Earth and traveled our seas for the final 100 million years. Turtles have main cultural significance and tourism worth.
The presence or lack of sea turtles is an efficient indication of the extent of interplay between people and our coastal ecosystems. Marine turtles use coral reefs and seagrass beds for foraging, seashores for nesting, and oceans and seas for migrating inside and between nations. The interconnected nature of those ecosystems facilitates turtle motion. In Belize particularly, seashores and marine ecosystems are used year-round, together with inside marine protected areas and World Heritage websites.
There are three species of marine turtles generally encountered in Belize’s waters: hawksbill, loggerhead, and inexperienced turtles. Belize’s waters together with marine protected areas and World Heritage websites are believed to be essential regional foraging grounds for the three turtle species.
World Wildlife Fund has been working laborious to make sure the survival of this essential species by eliminating sea turtle bycatch from fisheries, lowering the unsustainable harvest and unlawful commerce in sea turtles, and stemming the lack of essential sea turtle habitats. Many of those goals are achieved by establishing and strengthening protected areas round nesting seashores, elevating consciousness and selling ecotourism, lobbying for turtle-friendly fishing practices, and extra.
An Thrilling Feat: UNESCO’s Record of World Heritage in Hazard
In 2018, Belize’s unimaginable barrier reef is faraway from UNESCO’s Record of World Heritage in Hazard. The historic resolution after a World Heritage Committee assembly in Bahrain, simply 5 months after the Belizean authorities imposed a moratorium on oil exploration and drilling in all of Belize’s offshore waters—a landmark piece of laws that protected essential ecosystems and established the nation as a brand new world chief in ocean conservation.
Comprised of seven protected areas, Belize’s Barrier Reef System is a part of the Mesoamerican Reef System, the most important barrier reef within the Western Hemisphere, and is residence to almost 1,400 species, from endangered hawksbill turtles to West Indian manatees, stingrays, coral, and 6 threatened species of sharks.
Practically 200,000 folks—greater than half Belize’s inhabitants—depend on the reef to stay. Reef-based tourism and leisure actions present very important sources of revenue and account for an estimated $200 million of Belize’s GDP, whereas industrial fishing contributes about $15 million. The reef additionally supplies essential pure safety in opposition to damages from excessive storms alongside the coast.
Within the final decade, exploration for oil, improvement alongside the coast, and an absence of robust rules have posed rising threats to the delicate ecosystem. The reef web site was added to UNESCO’s Record of World Heritage in Hazard in 2009 because of the menace of irreversible injury from dangerous coastal development and oil exploration.
Throughout the previous years, greater than 450,000 folks from world wide joined WWF and different organizations—together with Oceana, the Belize Tourism Affiliation, Belize Audubon Society, and Belize Institute for Environmental Regulation and Coverage—to marketing campaign in opposition to proposed oil exploration close to the World Heritage web site. They signed petitions, wrote letters, and used social media to induce the nation’s authorities to safe the long-term safety of the barrier reef. Their laborious work paid off.
In December 2017, Belize agreed to place an finish to grease exploration in its waters and commenced to safe the area in opposition to quick threats—a essential step in direction of defending the reef, its species, and the individuals who depend on it. Belize is now simply considered one of three nations on this planet with such laws.
World Heritage websites belong to all of us, and collectively we should take away the risks they face, and proceed with all our may to guard these pure conservancies in order that sea turtles and the immense variety of different species can proceed to outlive and thrive.