Belize made history today by introducing legislation to enshrine an indefinite moratorium on offshore oil in its marine territory, including territorial seas and Exclusive Economic Zone. Given Belize’s economic dependence on its natural resources, particularly on globally significant marine assets such as the second longest barrier reef in the world, the legislative move to safeguard these invaluable environments from the inherent dangers of offshore oil is fundamental to the country’s future.
According to economic valuations conducted by the World Resources Institute in 2009, every year Belize’s coastal and marine ecosystems contribute more than a billion dollars to the national economy through just three goods and services: tourism, fisheries, and coastal and shoreline protection. In the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster in 2010, Belizeans learnt that their entire offshore area had been parceled out and sold as concessions to oil companies. After an attempt to trigger an official referendum by Oceana and the other members of the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage was derailed, in February 2012 some 30,000 citizens participated in the groups’ unofficial vote dubbed, “The People’s Referendum”. More than 96% of participants voted against offshore oil activity.
“If enacted, this bill will become ‘The People’s Law’ because it recognizes that Belizeans have remained steadfast in their opposition to offshore oil. The enduring participation of the public has meant that this issue has survived time as well as all the traditional divisive tactics,” shared Oceana’s Vice President for Belize, Janelle Chanona.
Not sure when the enactment would occur but indeed this is inspiring news.