This morning, members of the environmental community gathered in Belmopan to send a message to the Prime Minister about keeping our barrier reef system safe. The reef is currently on UNESCO's "in-danger" list, meaning that organization that designates World Heritage sites is worried about the management and longevity of Belize's largest tourist attraction and greatest natural wonder. Our news team went to Belmopan to see for ourselves...
Alex Courtenay reporting
Today the World Wildlife Fund in Belize kicked off Reef Week by taking their message of conservation directly to the office of the Prime Minister. Conservation stakeholders staged a small parade around the National Assembly building, where they delivered 265,000 virtual letters to the PM. WWF's Advocacy Lead told us more.
Valentino Shal - WWF
"This is an ongoing campaign that we have undertaken since 2009. Belize's World Heritage site, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System has been in the endangered list with UNESCO and there are several measures that the government needs to take to ensure that it's properly protected and then it will be taken off. Those measures have not yet been met and year after year we are making very slow progress. So we need to bring this matter to the attention of the Prime Minister."
And what exactly are these issues that are so pressing that over a quarter million people have written to the Prime Minister to urge him to take action?
Nadia Bood - WWF
"There are a total of 4 indicators that the government must address as part of the ask from UNESCO to get the sight removed from the endangered list rather. One indicator relates to mangrove, one indicates to coastal development, one indicator relates to land ownership and development aspects to those cayes that are owned within the World Heritage Site and one relates to oil."
The longer our reef stays on the "in danger" list, the more likely it is that it will be stripped of its status as a World Heritage Site; a title which Bood says is instrumental in developing Belize as a tourist destination.
Nadia Bood - WWF
"We know that people come to Belize and sure they go and enjoy the terrestrial attractions but a large percentage go and enjoy our marine attraction. It basically is the reef of course. People might do canoeing within the mangrove channels, but a large percentage come to enjoy our reefs. So there's a direct connection definitely. Tourism right now is a significant contribution to Belize's economy, that speaks for itself. So there's a lot we can do to market it more tourism wise. They have mud flats in Africa that is making millions of dollars. Why can't we market our World Heritage Site even more so that we can continue to get more benefits from that?"
The online petition will remain open for anyone to sign at www.panda.org/belize.