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Sep 30, 1999

Protecting reef focus of regional meeting

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Belize’s Barrier Reef has long been enjoyed by divers and is one of our major tourist attractions. The other countries of the region understand the moneymaking potential of the reef and are eager to cash in on its reputation. To help keep the reef healthy for years to come, a meeting is underway in Belize to develop strategies and attract the necessary funding. Jacqueline Woods reports.

The Barrier Reef System which lies off the coast of Belize also extends north to the Yucatan Peninsula and southeast to Guatemala and the Bay Islands of Honduras. When you add it all up, the reefs, which extend over six hundred miles, provide a habitat for a small world of marine life and each year attract tens of thousands of tourists to the region. A regional project is being prepared to sustain and conserve this natural wonder.

Henry Canton, Acting Minister of Natural Resources

“The Barrier Reef is an undersea world unto itself. It supports a wide variety of flora and fauna, including over four thousand species of fish, turtles, lobsters, sea horses, sponges, shrimps. Mangrove grows freely throughout the reef and marine vegetation of all kinds covers its beds. It is home to manatees, many species of birds and yes, humans. Of all its inhabitants we humans are the ones who have caused the most harm.”

The reef is being exploited through tourism activities, over fishing, coral destruction and in some cases, through mining.

The problem is one that is being confronted on a regional level. In 1997, leaders of the four countries of the Reef System met in Mexico and signed the Tulum Declaration which vows to protect the reef. This week representatives of the countries met again to discuss how to manage certain areas of the Barrier Reef System, also known as the MesoAmerican Barrier Reef System.

Vincent Gillett, Belize National Coordinator, M.B.R.S.

“We will evaluate them and determine whether or not the suggestions forwarded are good or whether they need to be modified or whether projects have to be amended and so forth, so that at the end of the day, we have a document which I will refer to as a Project Document which will in our opinion and in the collective opinion of the four countries have the components and meet the requirements of our four countries.”

The document will also have to meet the approval of the World Bank since the project managers are seeking funding from the bank’s Global Environmental Fund. Bank representative Arsenio Rodriguez has been invited to assist with this critical aspect. Jacqueline Woods for News Five.

The regional meeting at the Radisson continues through October first.

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