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Protecting our Reef UNESCO Officials meet with island residents

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Committee (UNESCO) dispatched two officials from its World Heritage Headquarters in Paris, France to conduct an investigation into dredging activities that have reportedly taken place at one of Belize’s main reserve sites. Edward Muller and Marc Patry are presently in Belize on a working visit. The two UNESCO officials are conducting public discussion, touring the sites where the dredging occurred.

A public discussion was held on Thursday, March 26 at the Lion’s Den where presentation on Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve were done by Green Reef as well as a presentation on the evaluation on visitors impact on Reef Health by Armeid Thompson of the Healthy Reefs Initiative. Both representatives of UNESCO were present at the meeting as well as representatives of the Forestry Department and the Department of the Environment.

The crowd expressed their feelings and thoughts on development projects on the island that can have a negative impact on reef to Mr. Marc Patry. He made it clear that they were here in Belize to evaluate how the country is protecting and managing protected areas as they could well indeed be placing Belize in a Red Flag Status.

Information recently reached the World Heritage Headquarters in Paris that there was some dredging on the South Water Caye Marine Reserve. More alarm bells will ring at UNESCO’s World Heritage Headquarters when they discover that there are two development proposals that, if they go ahead, will be done right in the middle of South Water Caye Reserve.

Mr. Patry assured the crowd that after visiting the sites on the list of protected areas they will be issuing a report the World Heritage Committee in June and they will be sending a letter to the Government of Belize as to what needs to be addressed and what needs to be done in order for Belize’s Barrier Reef System not to be removed from the World Heritage Site.

On December 6, 1996, UNESCO formally adopted the Belize Barrier Reef system as a World Heritage Site, meaning that Belize, through its government, pledged to preserve the site for posterity and the rest of humanity. Seven marine protected areas along the Barrier Reef and its adjacent atolls were nominated and accepted by the World Heritage Committee to form what will now be called the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System. The seven areas are Bacalar Chico, the Blue Hole at Lighthouse Reef, Half Moon Caye, Glovers Reef, South Water Caye, Laughing Bird Caye and the Sapodilla Cayes.

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