Thursday, October 27, 2016

10-27-2016 Belize Anti-Oil Meeting

Unfortunately, Belize's past does involve oil drilling, and even offshore oil rigs, though those are all apparently capped now. However, in recent years the public has become more informed about the issue and the people are resoundingly against more oil exploration/exploitation, especially offshore where Belize is home to the largest living coral reef. The barrier reef is a World Heritage Site, but, unfortunately, that doesn't mean it or the nearby waters are truly safe from more oil drilling.

To give a better idea of what is going on, ONLY the areas outlined in red are protected from oil prospecting. However, any oil
exploration in the other areas (the vast majority of Belize's waters) WILL affect the protected areas as well. As one person at
the meeting said, "Having designated oil exploration areas in the sea is like having designated peeing areas in the pool".
 Hahaha - love that analogy!!! (Photo credit to Oceana Belize)

So, what happened recently that has caused an uproar in Belize, is that the government allowed two ships (owned by TGS, who sells their data to oil companies) to enter Belizean waters and do seismic airgun blasting. No Environmental Impact Assessment was done before they allowed this (there is supposed to be one), and the relevant agencies were not notified of the testing before it started. In addition, the only reason for this seismic testing is to explore for oil deposits, and the people have voted against this, and a moratorium is in place. Thankfully a huge public outcry forced the Prime Minister to send the ships away. But, that doesn't mean it's over.

In the morning Windschief Bar hosted a public meeting about the oil exploration issue. There were presenters from Oceana
 (website), World Wildlife Fund of Belize (website), and the Belize Institute of Environmental Law and

There was a decent turnout, though it would have been nice to see more local tour operators present. Probably because it was
a relatively last-minute meeting it was hard to get the word out to everyone.

Here is a nice documentary about how humans have changed and continue to change the world of underwater sounds, and the impact this has on the aquatic wildlife:

Here is another video about seismic airgun blasting. It's from more than a year ago, and it talks about it being done along the Atlantic Coast of the United States, saying it was delayed. Our understanding is that the seismic airgun blasting is already done now in that area, and those same ships that did it in the US are the ones that came down to Belize and got turned away.

If you really want to delve into the story of oil in Belize, take a look at this detailed report called Too Precious To Drill: The Marine Biodiversity Of Belize.

Whether because of fishing or tourism-related jobs, more than half the population of Belize's livelihood is directly dependent on the barrier reef and surrounding waters. Tourism is the major job industry in Belize, and people come from all over the world because of the pristine beauty here, so it's not just a Belizean issue. It is imperative that we help keep this unique ecosystem intact. If you want to help protect this jewel of Belize, here are some things you can do:

Send a letter of protest to Dean Barrow, the Prime Minister of Belize, through the WWF's website:

Send a letter protesting any further oil exploration directly to Prime Minister Dean Barrow at:
Office of the Prime Minister
Sir Edney Cain Building
Belmopan, Belize, C.A.

Send a letter protesting any further oil exploration to any or all of the following people:

Hon. Gaspar Vega
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, The Environment & Sustainable Development
West Block Building, 2nd Floor
Independence Plaza
Belmopan, Belize, C.A.

Hon. Omar Figueroa
Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, The Environment & Sustainable Development
West Block Building, 2nd Floor
Independence Plaza
Belmopan, Belize, C.A.

Hon. Godwin Hulse
Minister of Natural Resources and Immigration
Queen Elizabeth Blvd.
Belmopan, Belize, C.A.

Hon. Jose Manuel Heredia Jr.
Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation
106 South Street
Belize City, Belize, C.A.

Hon. Erwin Contreras
Ministry of Economic Development, Petroleum, Investment, Trade and Commerce
Ground Floor, Right Wing, Sir Edney Cain Building
Belmopan, Belize, C.A.

Also, spread the word on social media. If you are on Facebook, "Like" Oceana Belize, WWF Belize Saving Our Shared Heritage, Say NO To Offshore Oil In Belize, and Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy, and share their posts about this issue.

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