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Mar 9, 2018

Our Reef Rocks! Celebrate with Reef Week

Reef Week started back in 2013 as an initiative to celebrate Belize’s Barrier Reef through a week of events across Belize. Today, the conservation community launched the fifth staging of Reef Week under the theme “Our Reef Rocks: Protect It; Don’t Neglect It.”  The Belizean conservation community spoke of the significant economic and cultural benefits of the reef and the need to protect it. To ensure they are actively and strategically championing this goal, an initiative called the ‘Year of the Reef Declaration 2018” was introduced for the first time.  News Five’s Andrea Polanco was at the launch and has more in the following story.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Last year the Government of Belize imposed an indefinite moratorium on offshore oil in Belize’s marine territory. It is just one of the safeguards marine conservationists and the Belizean public have championed. But the Belize Barrier Reef is still under threat and pressure from other elements. And that is why for the fifth year, Reef Week is being observed across the country to celebrate the wins, highlight the importance of our reef and emphasize the need for added protection.

 

Janelle Chanona

Janelle Chanona, VP, OCEANA Belize

“Looking at the achievements of 2017, the offshore oil moratorium, the leadership of the government and people of Belize on this issue is really something to celebrate. We know the Fisheries Act is coming on stream shortly. Mangrove regulations are being looked at as well. So, it is a big set of milestones and accomplishments that have been conservation minded. But it is also looking past that – how these resources are essential pillars to our nature based economy and making sure that we are not seeing it a little box that it is just the environment and they are just worrying about fish and tree and everything else. It is really putting that into center scope where it deserves to say that it is essential to our development that we ensure sustainability, transparency, accountability  of ourselves and everyone of else.”

 

And for the first the time Reef Week introduced the “Year of the Reef Declaration.” It is piece of document that outlines targets to protect our reef. The Churches of Belize also threw their support behind the Declaration. OCEANA’s Janelle Chanona explains the significance of this new component to Reef Week.

 

Janelle Chanona

“The idea of the declaration is really to put words to paper and heart to effort that together we can identify several areas that we want to work strategically towards, collectively towards. So, it is looking at in our own lives, wherever we can, at work, at school, at church, a neighborhood fair, fundraising events, working away from single use of plastics and Styrofoam; looking at how we can support transitions from destructive fishing gear and indiscriminate fishing gears to alternatives that support sustainability of fishing. We want to keep fishermen fishing. We want to keep the resources safeguarded and overall better management through transparency and through accountability. So, the idea is to really give us a benchmark this year and in Reef Week 2019, we will get together and see what progress we have made, new supporters who have come on stream, just so that we can mark ourselves.”

 

The Reef Week 2018 will be celebrating entrepreneurs who are making environmentally friendly products and following sustainable practices, as well as raising awareness through a number of activities across the country.

 

Janelle Chanona

“We are also calling out entrepreneurs that are already doing this. So, bamboo straws, sea glass jewelry, lionfish jewelry, Eco friendly solutions with their biodegradable products. Tomorrow we go from the foot of the national assembly on bicycle to the B.T.L. Park, so artistically saying that the decisions made in the corridors of power are reflected across the coast. On Sunday, we have the swim across the English Caye Channel. We have a series of classroom events, movie nights, activities in every single district and all the cayes and clean up above and below the waterline.”

 

Reef Week 2018 culminates on Friday, March sixteenth at Alejo Beni Park in Dangriga with the “Reef Week Fair.” Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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