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Jun 6, 2022

Happy Ten-thousandth Birthday to Belize’s Barrier Reef

On Friday night, during a gala event at the Biltmore, the conservation community wished Belize’s Barrier Reef a happy ten thousandth birthday. It’s quite an achievement, despite the challenges of climate change, coral bleaching and other stresses to the marine ecosystem.  Representatives of the Ministry of Blue Economy, Oceana, the Belize Audubon Society and the World Wildlife Fund gathered to celebrate the occasion. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Amanda Burgos

Amanda Burgos, Executive Director, Belize Audubon Society

“The pride, the sense of just overwhelming Belizean identity; that is what we think of when we think of the Belize Barrier Reef.  We think of the home to fourteen hundred species of flora and fauna, at least seventeen threatened species, supporting one of the largest populations of the vulnerable West Indian Manatee, endangered turtles, your hawksbills, your loggerheads.  Your azure colors of blues, your jewels.  We always refer to Belize as this jewel and we always refer to the four hundred and fifty sand and mangrove islands as the emeralds and pearls in that crown.”


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Ten thousand years since its formation, the Belize Barrier Reef System has reached another milestone.  It’s the kind of anniversary celebration that doesn’t include a birthday cake, balloons or candles, but its significance, nonetheless, is not lost on the conservation community.


Nadia Bood

Nadia Bood, Marine Scientist

“So, why ten thousandth birthday you may ask?  Well our research has shown that modern reefs, including the Belize Barrier Reef, are approximately five thousand to ten thousand years old.  So, we have decided to go with the upper end of this range estimate to celebrate our reef.” 


The Belize Barrier Reef System was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.  It consists of seven protected areas that are significant habitats for threatened species.  Together, they make up twelve percent of the entire reef complex and illustrate the evolutionary history of reef development.


Andre Perez

Andre Perez, Minister of Blue Economy

“We recognize the value of our barrier reef to our country, including coastal protection, fisheries and tourism, among many other forms of economic and environmental support.  As a ministry, we are very serious about this mandate that has been given to us.  We call it learning to master that exquisitely choreographed balance between taking advantage of our aquatic resources to catapult the economy of this country, but doing so in a manner that is environmentally sustainable and responsible.”


Over the years, the Belize Barrier Reef System has proven itself to be an invaluable source of revenue for the country, from tourism and fisheries.


Amanda Burgos

“The annual economic contribution of reef-related tourism, fisheries and scientific research was estimated to be fifteen percent of Belize’s gross domestic product.  In terms of coastal protection, coral reefs and mangroves provide coastal protection for up to forty percent of Belize’s population that lives along the coast.  These ecosystem values are significant, they were estimated at around three hundred and ninety million U.S dollars per annum.”


Happy ten thousandth birthday to the Belize Barrier Reef System.


Isani Cayetano For News Five

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