One of the world’s remaining coral reef systems is no longer considered to be in danger thanks to active efforts to protect it.
The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, the Western Hemisphere’s longest reef system, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and had been included on the committee’s “in danger” list of since 2009. On Tuesday, the committee voted to remove the system from the list after years of conservation action from the Belizean government, including banning offshore gas and oil drilling, revising mangrove conservation laws, and creating a coastal management plan.
“The Belizean government deserves tremendous credit for partnering with the NGO sector and taking concrete steps toward safeguarding this truly special seascape—and that work will continue,” said Nicole Auil Gomez, the Belize country director for the Wildlife Conservation Society, in a press release. “We remain optimistic that smart, effective conservation measures, with a focus on long-term commitments that lead to results, can help save endangered World Heritage Sites before they disappear.”
There’s been a lot of hand-wringing over the state of coral reefs around the globe, which are threatened due to warming ocean temperatures caused by climate change, ocean acidification, and damage from the fishing and extraction industries. Coral bleaching—a phenomenon in which a symbiotic algae is expelled from the coral, causing it to die—has become more common and widespread. More than two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef has become bleached in the last two years, and conservationists have been warning for a decade that we need to act now or risk losing our reefs for good.
The thing is, the message has always been clear that conservation action and curbing greenhouse gas emissions can turn the tide. We have a very real opportunity to not only save, but even restore our coral reefs before it’s too late. The work done in Belize shows that it just takes a little effort and commitment to preserve some of the most biodiverse, ecologically important, and honestly just straight-up stunning ecosystems on our planet. Seriously, let’s just try a little bit and see what happens.
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