Belize permanently suspends new offshore oil exploration to protect coral reefs

January 9, 2018, 10:26 a.m.
The coral and marine life of Glover's Reef in Belize.
Photo: Kimon Berlin/flickr

Belize has made a choice, prioritizing its coral reefs over oil production in that precious marine environment. New legislation has permanently suspended all new offshore drilling exploration.

"Today is a great day for Belize," said Nadia Bood, Mesoamerican reef scientist at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in a statement. "Not only has its government listened to calls to protect the Belize Barrier Reef, which only last year was under threat from seismic oil exploration, it has stepped up to become a world leader in ocean protection by ending all oil activity in its waters."

Belize's oil production is small, roughly 3,000 barrels a day, according to Quartz, but it still accounts for a quarter of its exports. Tourism, however, is estimated to bring $182 million to $237 million per year to the country, which boasts the largest collection of reefs in the Western Hemisphere. Reef-related tourism and fisheries support 190,000 people in a country with a population of 370,000 people.

The country is betting on the environment to keep its economy chugging along, not activities that could potentially harm it and the 1,400 species that call the reefs home.

Related on MNN: Proposal would allow offshore drilling in 90% of U.S. waters