Beautiful underwater view of the Belize Barrier Reef, a World Heritage Site
The Caribbean Sea: its Belizean blues are the lifeblood that runs through our veins; the salt in our patriotic tears; the sweat on our brow as we haul in the catch of the day. And as the light dances through the coconut fronds overhead and toes burrow a little deeper into the brown sugar sands, a feeling of “home” washes over the soul. It was these special connections that motivated the Government of Belize to ask the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to designate the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System as a World Heritage Site. To obtain this designation, sites must be of outstanding, universal value. That Belize is home to a unique array of reef types in one self-contained area and that so many Belizeans live on the coast, and directly depend on marine resources as a source of food and livelihood, made a convincing case. So in 1996, UNESCO designated Belize a World Heritage Site, making it one of only 47 marine sites globally with this status. Twenty years on, Belize is still a very special place, and those connections are still very real to tens of thousands of Belizeans but then, so are the threats to the integrity of the system. Now, more than ever before, Belize needs to be loved and protected.
Photograph by Oceana's staff photographer, Alex Ellis
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