It has been referred to as the backbone of the tourism industry in Belize, but Belize’s Barrier Reef was placed in the Danger list and it is still uncertain what that might mean for the country. The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee added the Belize Barrier Reef System and Los Katios National Park to its list of World Heritage Sites that are “in danger” during a meeting in Seville, Spain on Friday, June 26th, 2009.
Composed of seven protected areas, many small mangrove islands and coastal lagoons, the Belize Barrier Reef System is home to a number of threatened species, including marine turtles, grouper fish, corals, and the American crocodile.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Heritage Committee, part of the UNESCO, reported that a joint monitoring mission was sent to Belize in March. According to the report the consultation revealed alarming developments such as extensive mangrove cutting, development within the site and the sale of mangrove islands.
“By adding the Belize Barrier Reef to the List of World Heritage in Danger, the World Heritage Committee is acting to ensure that one of the world’s most outstanding natural places is being protected and that the international community is doing its utmost to support Belize in its conservation efforts, “said Tim Badman, leader of the IUCN delegation at the meeting in Seville.
The Belize Barrier Reef, the largest in the Northern Hemisphere, is also the country’s top marketing tool and is sold as the main tourist destination in Belize. On December 4th, 1996, the Belize Barrier Reef was inscribed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Los Katios National Park was declared a World Heritage Site in 1994 due to the extraordinary diversity of plant and animal species represented. The park contains over 25% of the bird species reported for Colombia in an area less than 1% of the total Colombian territory.