July 5, 2018 – Anderson & Kreiger and pro bono client Oceana can celebrate once again. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee just removed the Belize barrier reef – the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere – from its list of World Heritage Sites in Danger.
The reef and its related resources were listed as endangered partly because of the Belize government’s plan to lease the entire coastline for off-shore oil exploration. In a case brought by Oceana with A&K’s help, the Belizean courts annulled the leases because they were issued to unqualified companies with no environmental impact assessments. The government eventually established a moratorium on oil exploration in the entire maritime zone.
The Committee cited that moratorium, along with stronger regulations to protect mangroves, as support for its determination that the reef is no longer in immediate danger. Like all ocean reefs, the Belize Barrier Reef faces serious long-term threats from warming and acidifying seas, but at least the short-term threats have abated.