In Rare Good News For Coral, UN Agency Says Belize Barrier Reef No Longer In Danger

The Belize Barrier Reef System, a 190-mile-long swatch of coral that includes famed sites like the Great Blue Hole, has been removed from UNESCO’s list of imperiled sites after a widespread campaign to protect the structure, the UN agency said Tuesday.

The landmark, designated as a World Heritage Site in 1996, is home to nearly 1,400 species and has been hailed as one of the most biodiverse marine sites on the planet. But the reef had spent most of the last decade on UNESCO’s “in danger” list due to threats from oil exploration, the loss of mangrove trees and illegal land sales.

About 200,000 people, or half of Belize’s population, are dependent on the reef for their livelihood and environmental groups have long warned that a lack of protection could imperil both the multimillion dollar tourism sector and the endangered animals that live in the region, including West Indian manatees and hawksbill sea turtles.

The government listened, and in December, after years of campaigning, officials issued an indefinite moratorium on all oil exploration and drilling in the country’s waters, a move that UNESCO said warranted its removal from its imperiled list.

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