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Oct 18, 2017

Barrier Reef is Economically Priceless

The extent to which Belize’s economy depends on tourism generated by the threatened Belize Barrier Reef World Heritage site was revealed today by a new report from World Wildlife Fund and partner organizations. The report, “Natural Heritage, Natural Wealth,” aims to highlight the incredible resource the country is at risk of losing. The results of the study quantified the tourism benefits the Belize Barrier Reef World Heritage site provides to Belize through an assessment of four of its seven marine protected areas. News Five’s Andrea Polanco reports.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

A recent study by the World Wildlife Fund shows that four of seven marine protected areas in Belize provide up to nineteen million US dollars per year in economic benefits from tourism recreation. This figure, however, reflects only a fraction of Belize’s Barrier Reef total socio-economic value to Belize.

 

Nadia Bood

Nadia Bood, Country Rep, WWF

The study looks at the investment cost from recreational activity within the marine protected areas which would be user fees, for example; but even broader than that we look at the total tourism impact from other tourism operations that are linked to those reserves such as give operators, snorkel operators, live-aboard, kayaking, resorts and hotels that resides within these reserves or on the boundary of these reserves that then have some investment or receive investment related to activities- tourism related activities linked to the respective marine protected areas that we analyzed.”

 

The four marine protected areas used for this study are the Blue Hole & Half Moon Caye Natural Monuments; Glover’s Reef Atoll Marine Reserve; and Laughing Bird Caye National Park – the valuation is on par with other global sites.

 

Vivian Belisle Ramnarace

Vivian Belisle Ramnarace, Fisheries Department

“The World Wildlife along with partners identified the need to quantify the economic value of the world heritage site in Belize to highlight it potential as a key economic driver and to catalyze the necessary efforts for the preservation of its outstanding universal value. This study carried out by the WWF main objective was to develop a set of monetary values that can be used to support and promote the management of seven protected areas that make up Belize’s world heritage site. It looked primarily at Blue Hole, Half Moon Caye. Glovers Reef Marine Reserve and Laughing Bird Caye National Park. The study has identified realistic and replicable estimates of the economic value of goods and services of the reserve system. It is estimated that per year that Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye Natural Monuments can provide between two to five point eight million U.S. dollars in economic benefits in direct use through recreational tourism; Glovers Reef Marine Reserve can provide between two to five point eight million US dollars per year and Laughing Bird can provide between one point five to four point five million US dollars per year. An additional informal benefit transfer conducted indicates that there is potentially much greater additional value associated with the MPA’s in the form of other benefits. This is not surprising to us and is consistent with the value of other sites such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.”

 

Other benefits provided by the Belize Barrier Reef World Heritage site include productive fisheries, a range of important ecosystem services, including vital protection against hurricanes. Home to almost one thousand four hundred species, the Belize Barrier Reef is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, and a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996. But this system has been on UNESCO’s “In danger” list since 2009. Some one hundred and ninety thousand people benefit from this system that is valued around half a billion US dollars.

 

 

Nadia Bood

“We also had done previous research to see how many Belizeans are dependent on our marine protected areas – on our world heritage site and we found that one hundred and ninety thousand Belizeans are directly or indirectly dependent on our Barrier Reef System.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Looking at all these numbers, are you able to express how important it is that we put in the measures especially considering that we are still on the ‘in danger’ list?”

 

Nadia Bood

“The contributions of these marine protected areas are vast. Today we are only speaking about a little, a fraction of that just looking at mainly tourism. The investment has to be on par because we are getting so much from them and we also do all we can in investing, protecting and managing these reserves and try to address the indicators that UNESCO has asked the Government to address to get it off the in danger list.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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