Belize is a small country in Central America. A coral-studded barrier reef runs along almost the entire 195-mile length of this country's coast and swings from within 15 to 40 miles of the mainland. This reef is the longest unbroken living coral reef in the Western Hemisphere. It is second in the world only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
This beautiful reef was being ravaged by the same threats (link to Threats) that affect reefs worldwide. Belize, like many other countries that have a reef, heavily depended on the reef for food. The coral reef was suffering destruction on a local scale and the threats were increasing as population expanded and coastal development continued.
The people of Belize took action; they wanted to ensure the well-being of their reef. The United Nations proposed preservation of this reef as a World Heritage Site. They developed better fisheries management to prevent excessive fishing, better forestry techniques to reduce erosion, better waste water management to prevent pollution, and new industrial techniques to minimize toxic pollution. Belize attracted huge tourist industries which brought in billions of dollars of foreign money. All these sustainable development processes created new employment opportunities for many people in Belize. These were jobs that did not deplete or degrade the coral reefs.
Belize has successfully developed an environmentally sound tourism (ecotourism) plan that benefits the country. The reef quickly began recovering and is thriving! Belize wants to continue to keep it that way for present and future generations.