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Jun 8, 2011

World Ocean Day celebrated

Across the globe, World Oceans Day was celebrated by highlighting the beauty and wonders of the marine universe. In the Jewel, the issue of a referendum on offshore oil drilling was at the heart of the celebrations. More than seventeen thousand signatures have been collected, but now OCEANA claims that government is not playing it straight with the organization. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The wealth of Belize’s natural resources which includes fragile marine ecosystems, such as the barrier reef, remains a major tourism attraction within the region despite the threat of offshore oil exploration.  Since its introduction a few years ago Oceana has embarked on a massive campaign locally to raise awareness amongst Belizeans about the need to protect those resources.

Audrey Matura-Sheppard

Audrey Matura-Sheppard, Vice President, Oceana Belize

“I think weve made tremendous strides because being an advocacy NGO it is our job to always be out in the public to always use the media, use the social media, the mass media, the written media, every form of the media top get information out.  Our work as advocates carries many facets, one of them is to reach out to the public and educate and inform but one of them is also to talk with government, show them the science, show them the legal aspect of everything, show them the economic and social value of everything.  So we try to talk with policymakers and try and change decisions.  Were hoping that dialogue will always be possible but where dialogue isnt possible we continue our work and when we continue our work with all due respect we just have to do and say what we need to say so that we open the eyes of the Belizean people and ultimately Belizeans make their choice.”

Today is being recognized globally as World Oceans Day.  In 1992 it was decided at the Earth Summit in Brazil that the day would be recognized on June 8th; however, it wasn’t until 2008 that the United Nations formally observed World Oceans Day.  In Belize, Oceana organized several activities targeting youths.

Audrey Matura-Sheppard

“We are having this celebration because it is officially World Oceans Day and in keeping with that theme today is an activity which we invited young people mostly from the schools.  We had James Garbutt Seven Day Adventist Schools standard six students here participating and of course we invited the press and members of the public.  It was a relatively small gathering because we usually do huge things but it was more to get the message out, like you being here, and what we did [was] we had a special guest Ms. Jackie Savage who came and spoke about the challenges the U.S. where they are also fighting the same problems we have.  However, in their case they have already actually started drilling, in our case we havent yet.”

Over the past year much has been debated over the issue of oil exploration off the coast of the Jewel which has ultimately led to a referendum being requested on the matter.

Audrey Matura-Sheppard

“We’ve written many letters to the government.  We’ve extended many opportunities to the government for us to meet with them but unfortunately we feel as though we were just tagged along, tagged along.  The prime minister has done a very good job of keeping us at bay thinking that we’ll eventually dialogue.  We were also told well go [and] see if you have the ten percent for the referendum.  When we get the ten percent they say oh well you won’t even get the sixty percent so we began to realize [that] it’s not genuine.  But we know sometimes a lot of it is politicking and heat of the moment reaction and the prime minister has also gone on record saying that he’ll ask people not to come out and vote on the day of the referendum which is so undemocratic for a democracy, you know.  This is the way our people exercise their democratic right.”

According to Matura-Sheppard the prime minister has reneged on an initial agreement now that Oceana has garnered the seventeen thousand signatures it needed to trigger a referendum.

Audrey Matura-Sheppard

“He gave an interview to one of the newspapers saying that now that we have the seventeen thousand signatures all engagements are off.  I mean I’m surprised and I’m thinking that that is why you should have the engagement now.  It seems as though we were misled into believing there was a genuineness that we will have these dialogues that we could present to the government.”

The issue of offshore drilling aside today’s celebration was an opportunity to celebrate seafood and marine life and appreciate its intrinsic value. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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2 Responses for “World Ocean Day celebrated”

  1. ivan cal says:

    dean barrow is an opportunist’……………he no care for Belizean,once he have he no care for the rest.

  2. WESTERNMERMAID says:

    THESE WOMAN AUDREY MATURA SHEPPARD IS SURLEY MAKING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS ON HER NEW JOB.

    AUDREY TELL ME WHAT IS YOUR SALARY IF YOU DO THAT THEN I JOIN YOUR POLITICAL GROUP OK.

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