About Belize reef
- Stretching from the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula all the way to Guatemala and Honduras, the reef includes 380 km in the waters off Belize, the portion covered by World Heritage status
- It is the second largest after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
- It spans 96,000 hectares (237,220 acres) and is home to one of the largest ecosystems in the Atlantic.
- Belize’s waters are a haven for 1,400 kinds of plants and animals, including rare marine turtles, rays, bonnethead sharks and dolphins.
- More than half of the country’s population, around 190,000 people, are supported by incomes generated through tourism and fisheries directly dependent on the reef.
- The site also encompassed mangroves that help protect the reef and serve as a breeding ground for many of the hundreds of fish species that inhabit the area
Threats to Mesoamerican reefs
As part of the larger Mesoamerican coral reef, The Belize Barrier Reef is facing many of the same health problems as other reefs in the world.
- The rising water temperatures brought about by El Niño type events have triggered massive coral bleaching.
- As a result there has been a 80% reduction in live coral cover on some portions of the reef over the last two decades.
- With 240 miles (386 km) of coastline to the east of Belize, their biggest tourist attractions are the islands and the incredible array of dive and snorkeling sites surrounding them.
- Of the entire Mesoamerican reef, the central Belize Barrier Reef has suffered the most.
- Illegal fishing practices such as Jamaican traps have decimated the population of parrotfish, juvenile fish, and other non-edible species.
- While this type of fishing is illegal, the central reef area is not patrolled effectively.
- As part of the Hurricane belt, Belize is vulnerable to a constant threat of serious storms which seem to be becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change.
- The continued destruction of the reef by hurricane means there’s no buffer for tidal waves, and coastal erosion becomes an issue affecting mangrove forests—a necessary part of overall coral reef health.