According to dictionary.com, a coral reef is “a reef composed mainly of coral and other organic matter of which parts have solidified into limestone.” The Belize Coral Reef Barrier is the second largest in size of the world stretching 280 km and covers about 1,400km². Charles Darwin introduced this coral reef as “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies”.
‘In 1996 was declared as a “UNESCO World Heritage Site”, but later is 2009 was inscribed as “List of World Heritage in Danger.” Home to over thousand species of living things and responsible for a big part of Belize’s the economy; It has made scientist to gravitate towards it and research it. Belize’s coral reef is very important to the environment, supporting 180,000 people or more. 15% of Belize’s economy countrywide (GDP) originates only from tourism and fishing.
Snorkeling, scuba diving, and fishing earn about $395 – $559 million a year. In 2016, Belize at along with the Caribbean, brought approximately 29,000,000 tourists that wanted to appreciate the precious ecosystem. Fisheries in this area earn an estimated $14-16 million by the year. But, humans aren’t the only ones that are dependant on this reef, the Belize Coral Reef System is home 1,400 species including species that are being threatened by extinction. All which are being affected by tourism and overfishing.
Tourism has a big part in the reefs current situation. 800,000 people visit this “UNESCO World Heritage Site” annually generating about $150-196 million according to data in 2007. Tourist in the area mostly visit colonies like Placencia and Hopkins, Caye Caulker, San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, Lighthouse Reef, Glover’s Reef and Turneffe.
Many countries show a great interest in this ecosystem for, a Norwegian Cruise company bought an island for the single purpose of taking thousands of tourists there on the monthly basis. One of the most severe problems the coral reef is facing is coral bleaching. This new environmental problem happens when corals start losing color and slowly start dying. Reef scientist, Melanie McField, exclaimed: “This coral bleaching is pretty solidly tied to rising ocean temperatures.
” Researchers claim that what is known as coral bleaching is due to global warming. Climate change can bring rising ocean temperatures, ultraviolet radiation, and violent storms. The introductory bundle bleaching happened in 1995. According to the Coastal Zone Management Institute in Belize, approximately 10% of the coral’s reef entered partial mortality. The next mass bleaching occurred in 1997-1998 due to hurricane Mitch; it reduced the percent of live coral by 48 percent.
Another reason why Belize’s coral reef has been affected is that of tourism and human use. These coral communities may be affected by overfishing, tourism, and massive constructions near them. Billie Leslie said: “Development has gone way beyond the island’s capacity.” The 75-80% of the coastal zone bought by foreigners is a real threat to the reef. Also, Belize’s Coral Reef System has been affected by oil exploration.
When seen side by side, Belize’s petroleum map and the coral reefs protected area map. It is noticeable that most of the oil reserves are located in the protected area region. As a result, what has boosted the countries economy, now pollutes one of its prized possession. No matter the consequences oil explorations have. That hasn’t stopped the government to let permits out, for, in 2015, documents came out confirming so. BBRS consists of seven protected area, which takes 12% of the whole reef barrier. These are Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve, Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve, Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, South Water Caye Marine Reserve, Laughing Bird Caye National Park, Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, and Blue Hole Natural Monument . All of these, which fit into the nations constitution including the Fisheries Act and the National Parks Act.
Other laws include having permits to cut flowering trees and Environmental Impact Assessment are a necessity for large elaborations. Also, to prevent overfishing, bottom trawling has been banned and species have been protected, for example; parrot fish, tarpon, and permit. Other more common marine animals have been regulated. The coral reef has improved its situation in the past years is that the coral has grown about 10-17% since 2006. 90,000 or more corals have been artificially grown and planted in fordable depths, increasing coral cover. More tourist areas like the Blue Hole & Half-Moon Caye have donated approximately $19M to re-create tourism.