Live from Belize - It's World Heritage Sites!

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 12, No. 42            October 31, 2002

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Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI) has announced that Belizean marine resource managers and users will have the opportunity to welcome world-renowned researcher, Dr. Sylvia Earle and a National Geographic film team at a luncheon to be held in San Pedro Town on Saturday, November 2nd. This visit is part of an undersea expedition scheduled with two Belizean explorers, Mrs. Janet Gibson of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Ms. Julianne Robinson representing the Belize Audubon Society (BAS). It also coincides with a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention.

    The World Heritage Convention, which provides for the protection of those cultural and natural properties deemed to be of outstanding universal importance, has been ratified by 175 states. UNESCO will celebrate the original November 16, 1972 convention date under the theme, "World Heritage in the Digital Age".

    A number of special events and a "Virtual Congress" are scheduled using and demonstrating the use of digital technology for the better management of World Heritage Sites. For example, while the Belize expedition team dives and snorkels the length of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (which forms the country's World Heritage Site), hundreds of congress participants from cities around the world such as Beijing, Dakar, Mexico City, Paris and Alexandria will be able to travel along with them. Via a live-feed satellite, these participants will get the opportunity to discover the unique features and the spectacular diversity of Belize's barrier reef.

    The expedition will take place from November 1-12, 2002. The core diving team will be joined by reserve staff on their expedition to the marine protected areas. The underwater exploration begins at Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve, the northernmost of the seven marine protected areas included in Belize's World Heritage Site. Following this, the team will move on to the spectacular Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye before wrapping up at Glover's Reef Marine Reserve, one of three atolls located in Belize.

    Belize's Barrier Reef System was given World Heritage status by UNESCO on December 4, 1996. This status was granted due to the superlative natural phenomena, and areas of exceptional beauty and aesthetic importance of the reserve system. It was chosen as well for its many examples of ongoing ecological and biological processes, and because it contains significant natural habitats for endangered species. The reserve system consists of seven sites covering a total of 92,610 hectares. These sites are: Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve, Blue Hole National Monument, Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, South Water Caye Marine Reserve, Glover's Reef Marine Reserve, Laughing Bird Caye National Park and the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve.
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