Belmopan, July 10, 2012. In an historic partnership, Australia and Belize, the two countries with the longest Coral Reefs in the world have joined together as co-hosts of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) for 2012 -2013.
Global estimates from the international scientific community suggest that 10% of the Earth's coral reefs have been seriously degraded and that a much greater percentage is endangered, which if allowed to continue is likely to lead to the loss of most of the world’s reef resources during the next century. Damaged or destroyed reefs can be found in more than 93 countries, with coral reefs in South and Southeast Asia, East Africa and the Caribbean facing the greatest risks.
ICRI, founded in 1994, is a partnership among governments, United Nations, International environmental non-governmental and private sector organizations to preserve coral reefs and related ecosystems. It promotes the implementation of Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 and other international agreements to specifically address the plight of reefs and to reverse the trend of degradation and demise.
In 2011, the Cabinet of Belize agreed to partner the Government of Australia as a Co-Host and assume the stewardship of ICRI from Co-Hosts France and Samoa. In co-hosting the ICRI Secretariat, Belize will liaise with ICRI member countries in the Western Hemisphere, raise its profile in international conservation through exchange of experiences and attract additional resources for national and international initiatives in management and sustainable use of our natural marine resources.
Belize will work closer with AusAID in implementation of the CARICOM Assistance Program thus strengthening regional and bilateral ties with Australia. ICRI will hold its 27th Meeting in Cairns Australia from 16-19 July 2012 and Belize will field an Inter-ministerial Delegation to formally accept its responsibilities and to participate in running the meeting as Co-Host of the ICRI Secretariat.
The delegation will be comprised of Ambassador Adalbert Tucker -Office of the Prime Minister; Dr. Wendell Parham, Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Forestry Fisheries and Sustainable Development; Mrs. Beverley Wade, Administrator, Belize Fisheries Department; and Mr. James Azueta Eco-systems, Management Unit Coordinator, Belize Fisheries Department.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority of Australia is responsible for coordinating ICRI programs in Australia. The Fisheries Department of Belize has participated in ICRI in the past and is the Focal Point for ICRI in Belize supported fully by the Ministry of Forestry Fisheries and Sustainable Development, and in collaboration with stakeholders from civil society, public and private sectors and media.