1.         Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (Belize) (N 764)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1996

Criteria  (vii)(ix)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    2009-present

Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger

Sale and lease of public lands for the purposes of development within the property leading to the destruction of mangrove and marine ecosystems.

Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger

Drafted, proposed for adoption in the draft Decision below

Corrective measures identified

Adopted, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/1825 

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

In progress

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/764/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/764/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 140,000: i) USD 30,000 from the Rapid Response Facility for the monitoring of unauthorized activities in the Bladen Nature Reserves which were impacting the property; ii) USD 30,000 for emergency conservation actions in favour of the critically endangered wide sawfish (2010); iii) USD 80,000 in support of public use planning and site financing strategy development for the Blue Hole Natural Monument (2008-2009). 

 

Previous monitoring missions

March 2009: joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; February 2013: IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/764/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015

On 8 April 2015, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/764/documents. The State Party reports on the progress achieved towards implementation of corrective measures:

A joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN technical mission visited the property in January 2015 to provide assistance to the State Party with the development of a Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR). The mission was financed by the Government of Flanders. A draft DSOCR has been prepared with technical assistance of the mission and in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders.

The draft has been subsequently reviewed and amended by the State Party and IUCN.  Table 1 below provides the final version.

 

Table 1: :Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR)

 

INDICATORS

RATIONALE

METHOD OF VERIFICATION

TIMEFRAME

1

The area of mangrove coverage in the property is maintained at least at the same level as when the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2009.  There is no further loss of mangrove cover within the entire property, including all mangrove types that are unique and irreplaceable, measured against the 2009 baseline.

(Note: this indicator requires urgent updating once the baseline data are independently confirmed)

 

 

Mangrove islands within the property are a key component of the property's OUV, central to the functioning of the coral reef ecosystem and provide a natural barrier against erosion and sea level rise. Current nation-wide mangrove cover is indicated to be around 93% of original extent, but further research is required to confirm, in hectares, the mangrove cover that existed within the entire property at the time of its inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

The indicator should show that no further loss of mangrove cover has occurred. Mangrove cover lost as a result of natural disasters (cyclones, etc.) shall not be considered in measuring the success of this indicator. However, in such cases, the impact of mangrove cover loss on the OUV of the property will have to be carefully assessed and appropriate measures taken to restore damaged areas.

·        Strengthening, adoption, implementation, and effective enforcement, of the currently proposed Mangrove Regulations

·        Satellite imagery/aerial photography of the property indicating the current mangrove coverage, measured against the 2009 baseline

·        Maps showing the distribution of the different categories of land ownership within the property and cadastral data of land tenure compared against the 2009 base year (the date when the site was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger)

·        Adoption by law of a permanent cessation of all sales and leases of state owned land throughout the property, measured against the 2009 baseline

·        Adoption by law of a zoning plan covering the entire property that specifies clearly defined regulation for allowed development and use for each zone, based on scientific, ecological and biological information about the property's OUV and its attributes

Completed by 31 December 2016

2

No areas within the property and in its immediate vicinity are developed in ways that affect the property's natural outstanding beauty and status as a globally significant natural phenomenon of Outstanding Universal Value

 

 

The property is recognized for being a globally significant natural phenomenon, a spectacular picturesque natural setting of brilliant white sand cayes and other unique geological features such as the Blue Hole and Rocky Point and of which the visual integrity needs to be maintained

·        Adoption by law, implementation and adequate enforcement regulations that specify the type, scale and density of coastal development consistent with the requirements to maintain the property's natural outstanding beauty and that of its immediate surroundings, including establishment of areas where no development should be permitted

·        Satellite imagery/aerial photography of the property measured against the 1996 and 2009 baselines

Completed by 31 December 2016

3

All areas within the property and the surrounding areas that support the ecological functioning of the system are excluded from oil exploration and exploitation

 

Oil exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status (World Heritage Committee position)

Oil exploration and exploitation pose an immediate threat to the integrity of the property and a possible irreversible loss of the property's Outstanding Universal Value in the case of an oil spill

·        A map that defines, on the basis of oceanographic, ecological and other scientific information, the property's surrounding areas where no oil exploration and exploitation can be permitted

·        Legal adoption of a permanent exclusion of the entire property and the defined surrounding areas from oil exploration and exploitation

Completed by 31 January 2016

4

The property is managed effectively and in an integrated way that will ensure the protection of its Outstanding Universal Value, and appropriately allows for achieving both sustainable socio-economic and environmental goals

The complexity of the property's ecosystem features and conservation of its integrity require an integrated management approach in which the property is embedded within the larger context of Belize's coastal and marine environment as well as the State Parties’ socio-economic needs

·        Adoption, implementation and effective enforcement of the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan, reflecting the World Heritage status of the property and its conservation and sustainable use requirements and consistent with the plan’s draft version of January 2015

Completed by 31 December 2016


Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The activities reported by the State Party towards implementation of the corrective measures are noted. However, key legal instruments, including the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan, the Living Aquatic Resources Bill and the new Mangrove Regulations, have not been finalized and approved yet, despite repeated Committee requests. While it is noted that all of these documents are undergoing final review, it is recommended that the Committee urge the State Party to finalize and adopt these legal instruments as a matter of priority.

Following the January 2015 mission, the State Party stated that it was committed to develop a suitable legal arrangement to address Committee requests regarding oil exploration and exploitation in and around the property. It is recommended that the Committee welcome this commitment and urge the State Party to develop the necessary legal instruments as a matter of urgency to permanently exclude the entire property and the areas that provide a functional ecological connection between the components of the serial property from any future oil exploration or exploitation. The confirmation that no oil concession is currently overlapping the property and that a voluntary moratorium on issuing of new concessions will be in place until the above-mentioned legal arrangement is developed should be welcomed.

The preliminary results of the land tenure inventory provided by the State Party show that a high percentage of lands within the property has either been sold or leased to private owners. The confirmation from the State Party that no further national lands have been sold or leased since 2009 when the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger is noted.  It is recommended that the Committee reiterate its request that the State Party develop a legal instrument that would guarantee permanent cessation of the sale and lease of lands throughout the property. More importantly, strict regulations need to be in place to ensure development on the privately owned or leased lands will be sustainable and commensurate the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). Conservation of existing mangrove areas within the property is crucial for the preservation of the overall health of the property’s ecosystems. Conservation of the mangrove cover and the exclusion of the property from any oil exploration and exploitation are considered key indicators that will need to be achieved in order to move towards the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger.

It is noted that a revision of EIAs regulations is currently ongoing. Strengthening of regulations and enhancing capacity for their implementation and enforcement is essential and together with the adoption of the Living Aquatic Resources Bill, Mangrove Regulations and Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan, should provide a basis for ensuring that private housing and tourism-related development within the property is strictly regulated and does not threaten its OUV including the conditions of integrity.

It is recommended that the Committee retain the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger and adopt the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 39 COM 7A.18

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7A.31, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
  3. Welcomes the activities reported by the State Party towards the implementation of the corrective measures, but notes with concern that key legal instruments, including the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan, the Living Aquatic Resources Bill and the Mangrove Regulations, have not yet been finalized and approved;
  4. Also welcomes the information provided by the State Party that no oil concession is currently overlapping the property, as well as its commitment to develop a suitable legal arrangement that would address the Committee requests regarding the elimination of all oil concession in and around the property, and urges the State Party to develop such a legal arrangement as a matter of priority;
  5. Notes that a land tenure inventory is currently ongoing, including within the property, and reiterates its request to the State Party to establish, as a matter of priority, a legal instrument that would guarantee permanent cessation of the sale and lease of lands throughout the property and a clear definition and strict control of development rights on existing private and leased lands;
  6. Further welcomes the constructive cooperation between the State Party and stakeholders and adopts the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) they proposed (see Document WHC-15/39.COM/7A.Add, Table 1), as well as its indicators, methods of verification and timeframe, and also urges the State Party to work closely together with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN for their succesful implementation;
  7. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2016, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016;
  8. Decides to retain the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (Belize) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 39 COM 8C.2

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC-15/39.COM/7A and WHC-15/39.COM/7A.Add),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: