While news of President Trump's proposal to open nearly all U.S. waters to offshore oil development has sent shock waves around the country, we have good news to share from ELAW partners in Belize:
The government of Belize has issued an indefinite moratorium on offshore oil development!
Victories for communities and the environment takes perseverance. ELAW has worked with partners in Belize since 2009 to protect the Belize Barrier Reef from the perils of offshore oil. In early 2010, we learned that the entire coastline of Belize had been divided up into oil concessions. Local advocates were outraged, and decided to file suit.
In 2013, Belizean Attorney Audrey Matura won a groundbreaking victory when a judge declared six offshore oil contracts null and void. ELAW provided legal support to Audrey and the legal team representing Oceana, Citizens Organized for Liberty and Action, and the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage in the court challenge.
The lawsuit mobilized Belizeans country-wide to oppose oil development in their tourism-rich coastal waters. Emboldened by the court win, they went on to advocate for a permanent ban.
"Hats off to the determined people of Belize for seeing this all the way through," says ELAW Associate Director Lori Maddox, who coordinates ELAW's work in the Mesoamerican Reef region.
"It's been a long haul from the courtroom, to the public referendum, to the peoples' referendum, to new law, but it's a testament to working in coalition on priority goals and is already inspiring others around the world to follow their lead."
The Guardian reports that the Belize law to end oil activity in all of its waters is hailed as a huge step forward to protect the fragile Belize Barrier Reef. The Reef is a UN World Heritage site, part of the second-largest coral reef in the world after Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and home to endangered hawksbill turtles, manatees, rays, and six threatened species of shark.
Congratulations to ELAW partners in Belize for your good work!
For more information, see:
The Guardian, January 14, 2018
Belize bans oil activity to protect its barrier reef
Quartz, January 8, 2018
As Trump opens more waters for oil exploration, the tiny nation of Belize shows a better way
Communications Director &
Fellows Program Coordinator