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Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System

Belize
Factors affecting the property in 2013*
  • Housing
  • Invasive / alien marine species
  • Land conversion
  • Major visitor accommodation and associated infrastructure
  • Oil and gas
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Sale and lease of public lands within the property;
  • Destruction of fragile ecosystems due to resort / housing development;
  • Oil concessions within the marine area;
  • Introduced species.
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.

Corrective Measures for the property

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

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures
Not yet established
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2013

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). 

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2013
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2013**

March 2009: joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN reactive monitoring mission; February 2013: IUCN reactive monitoring mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

From 4 to 9 February 2013, an IUCN monitoring mission visited the property, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012). The mission report is available online at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/37COM/documents

A report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party on 22 February 2013. The State Party also submitted a draft retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), which was agreed on by the State Party, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN. This will be examined by the World Heritage Committee under Item 8 of the Agenda of its 37th session.

The State Party’s state of conservation report contains an overview of the progress made towards addressing the Committee’s decision adopted at its 36th session and in the implementation of the corrective measures adopted by the Committee at its 33rd session:

a)  Implement the necessary legal measures to guarantee the permanent cessation of the sale and lease of lands throughout the property, and the cessation of mangrove cutting, coral dredging and other associated real estate development activities

The report provides no information on whether there is a legal instrument in place that guarantees that no sale and lease of lands within the boundaries of the property would occur in the future. The mission did not obtain any further clarifications on this matter. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are of the view that this critical corrective measure has yet to be implemented by the State Party. The issue of mangrove cutting and other development activities is addressed through corrective measure (b).

b)  Ensure that development rights on existing private or leased lands within the property are clearly defined and strictly controlled with a view to conserving the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of the property

The State Party indicates that the Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Authority has been working on the zonation plan for the coastal areas of Belize which should provide a framework to regulate development rights. The report also states that the final integrated CZM Plan will be submitted for approval within 6 months. With regard to this corrective measure, the report also mentions several activties and projects aimed at capacity enhancement of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process.

The mission concluded that the draft CZM Plan in its current shape, whilst being a comprehensive document, does not provide enough clarity and details on specific planning limitations with regard to the World Heritage Status of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System and recommended that the Plan should be more specific in providing detailed planning guidance. Overall, the mission considers that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations (2007) and other regulatory mechanisms provide a sufficient framework to regulate development projects within the boundaries of the property. However, their implementation and enforcement by the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC) is not always effective due to its limited resources. The mission also learned that a draft Forests (Protection of Mangroves) Regulations recently developed should provide adequate protection to the mangroves within the property if they are formally adopted. The mission also visited the site of the proposed Yum Balisi resort which had been approved by the NEAC and concluded that there had been no activity at the site for some time, as evidenced by regrowth after significant mangrove clearing which was reportedly undertaken in 2006. Although the project had been approved and an Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP) was signed on 3 August 2012, it was unclear if or when the developer would proceed with the project. The State Party indicated that in case no development commenced within a year after the ECP had been signed, the ECP would become void and any future development would require a new approval process.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that modest progress has been made in implementation of this corrective measure. Overall, the developed legal and institutional mechanisms could eventually provide an effective framework to control development projects that might have a negative impact on the OUV of the property. However, it is recommended that the State Party ensures that the World Heritage Status of the property is specifically underlined in all instruments that have not yet been finalized (Coastal Zone Management Plan and Forests Regulations) and that a high priority is given to capacity enhancement of the EIA process so that it can more effectively assess future project proposals with regard to their impact on the property’s OUV.  As for the previously approved Yum Balisi project, the State Party did not submit a copy of the EIA, as requested by the Committee (36 COM 7A.15, Saint-Petersburg, 2012).  It should be requested to suspend the issued ECP until the EIA of the project has been reviewed by the World Heritage Committee. It should also be reiterated that an EIA of any development project that demonstrates negative impacts on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value should not be approved.

c)  Develop and implement a restoration policy for lands having been disturbed by unauthorized activities

The State Party reports that no restoration policy is currently in place. The mission learned that most of the unauthorized activites within the property took place some years ago and the current status and area of disturbed lands is unclear. The State Party should therefore be requested to first undertake an inventory to analyze the current state of degraded lands and, based on the obtained results, develop a set of practical instruments specifically addressing restoration of degraded lands within the boundaries of the property.

d)  Establish a clear institutional coordination mechanism ensuring that the conservation of the property receives priority consideration within relevant governmental decision-making processes

The State Party indicates that the recently created Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development will now encompass all agencies with primary responsibility over the management of the property.  The report also notes that the World Heritage focal point had been shifted to the Fisheries Administrator. The CZM Authority and Institute is to provide a coordination role.  The State Party has also reactivated the National World Heritage Committee.

Though the mission considers that significant progress had been made by the State Party in implementing this corrective measure, until there is evidence of improved coordination, it is premature to consider that coordination issues have been resolved. The mission also refers to a number of legislative instruments that have been recently drafted or are currently being developed, such as the CZM Plan, the Land Use Policy Implementation Plan, Forests (Protection of Mangroves) Regulations, Living Aquatic Resources Bill, and underlines that it is important that the management of the property is specifically addressed in those documents and their implementation plans. 

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are of the view that the recent changes in the institutional structure have the potential to provide a clearer framework for the management of the property once all relevant legislative instruments are finalized and adopted and recommend that the corrective measure is amended following the recommendation of the mission.

e)  Develop a co-management legal framework under which the respective responsibilities of the State Party and conservation NGOs can be effectively established, monitored and evaluated in relation to the conservation of the property

The State Party reports that the new Co-management Framework developed following a thorough consultative process had been approved by the Cabinet on 12 June 2012. It will be signed between the Governement of Belize and the co-managing entities. 

f)  Systematically consider and address the threat of introduced species within the management plans for the property

The mission notes the State Party has been active in addressing the threat of introduced species. Apart from the National Lionfish Management Plan developed by the State Party in 2009, the issue is also addressed within the management plans of some of the component sites of the property. The mission further notes the Lionfish Project under which various activities and initiatives have been implemented. The mission further notes that the threat of rats is addressed within the management plans for Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve and Half Moon Caye.  No report is made on efforts to control the casuarina trees, an invasive species in the wider Caribbean and observed in the terrestrial part of the Bacalar Chico component by the 2009 reactive monitoring mission.

g)  Make publicly available the information on land ownership for all lands within the property, including mangrove islands, in easily accessible format, to ensure transparency in land use and allocations

The State Party indicates that certain land tenure information can be obtained from the Land Information Centre and the Mapping & Survey Section under the Lands Department. Information on land tenure within some of the component sites of the property is also available in their management plans. The mission considered this corrective measure as having been implemented.

h)  Develop and implement a medium-term plan to increase the no take zones within marine reserves, establishing ecologically effective protection and replenishment areas for otherwise heavily exploited fin fish, conch and lobster

The State Party reports that a set of actions has been undertaken in an effort to address this corrective measure.  It mentions the planned expansion of the replenishment zones of marine reserves in Belize, with a focus on the Hol Chan Marine Reserve which is to be expanded by 370 square kilometres. A new marine reserve – the Turneffe Atoll – has been recently declared which greatly contributes to the network of Belize’s marine protected areas. The report states that with the combination of these actions the total no take zone will constitute 10% of the Belizean Jurisdictional Seas. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that this corrective measure is partially implemented, and that regular monitoring of the effects of these measures on the populations of commercial fin fish, conch and lobster should demonstrate that protection is ecologically effective for these species before the corrective measure can be considered to have been fully implemented. 

i)  Other conservation issues – oil concessions

The State Party reports that the number of Petroleum Sharing Agreements (PSA) in the marine areas has decreased to five (from eight) and possibly more will be relinquished soon.

The mission was given a copy of the Belize Petroleum Contracts Map showing the remaining concessions as well as copies of the PSAs and was assured that confirmation would be forwarded to IUCN and the World Heritage Centre as soon as any further agreements were relinquished.

IUCN has also learned that the Government of Belize is engaged in the formulation of an offshore oil exploration and exploitation policy that would be in line with its commitment to protect the OUV of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note this decision and are open to provide necessary support to the State Party in the development of this policy. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN have also received media reports dated 16 April 2013, indicating that the Supreme Court of Belize had declared offshore drilling contracts null and void. 

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2013

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the World Heritage Committee recognize a degree of progress made by the State Party in addressing previous Committee decisions and in implementing the corrective measures. However, several corrective measures are yet to be implemented by the State Party and the impact on the conservation of the property of the implemented measures needs to be assessed. The mission concluded that the OUV of the property was still preserved, but that a series of issues (development projects, potential oil exploration, introduced species) continued to threaten the property. It is therefore important to continue the progress made in certain areas and to take immediate actions to resolve the issues that have not yet been fully addressed in order to preserve the OUV and integrity of the property in the long term. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the World Heritage Committee maintain the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger and urge the State Party to implement the remaining corrective measures.  

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2013
37 COM 7A.16
Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (Belize) (N 764)
Decision :   37 COM 7A.16

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7A.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 36 COM 7A.15 , adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012),

3. Commends the State Party for the progress made in implementing certain corrective measures, but urges it to address as a matter of priority the critically important issues related to permanent cessation of the sale and lease of lands throughout the property, clear definition and strict control of development rights on existing private and leased lands, the restoration of areas disturbed by unauthorized activities and to make a clear commitment toward no oil exploration with the property;

4. Welcomes the decision of the Government of Belize to develop an offshore oil exploration and exploitation policy that would be compatible with the World Heritage Status of the property and requests the State Party that the draft of such policy is provided for review by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;

5. Also urges the State Party to continue its efforts to implement the remaining corrective measure as updated:

a) Implement the necessary legal measures to guarantee the permanent cessation of the sale and lease of lands throughout the property,

b) Undertake an inventory of the lands previously disturbed by unauthorized activities with a view to identifying a set of practical solutions to restore the degraded lands within the boundaries of the property,

c) Finalize the legislative instruments and policy documents relevant to the management of the property, including the Coastal Zone Management Plan, Land Use Policy Implementation Plan, National Protected Areas System Bill, Aquatic Living Resources Bill, Forest (Protection of Mangroves) Regulations and Petroleum Exploration Framework and ensure that the requirements for the protection and management of the property are addressed in those documents as well as in their implementation and financial plans,

d) Make an unequivocal legislative commitment to eliminating all oil concessions granted within the boundaries of the property and adjacent waters and ensure that necessary legal and institutional instruments are in place to effectively control oil exploration and exploitation in areas outside the property which might have negative impact on its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV),

e) Carry out a property-wide assessment of marine no take zones in the property, and based on ecological criteria, identify and put into place a process designed to expand them in those areas of the property where the OUV is considered to be most vulnerable to fishing pressures and climate change,

f) Carry out an assessment of the threat arising from introduced species at the property, and develop and put into place a coordinated approach amongst its components to identifying priority actions for eradication and control campaigns;

6. Notes with concern that the National Environmental Appraisal Committee of Belize approved the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Yum Balisi Resort without previously submitting it for review by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines , and urges the State Party to suspend the signed Environmental Compliance Plan for the Yum Balisi Resort and not to renew it until the EIA of the project has been reviewed;

7. Also requests the State Party to prepare, based on the updated list of corrective measures and the Retrospective Statement of OUV and in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, the draft proposal for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014;

8. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014 , a report of the state of conservation of the property, including on progress made in implementing corrective measures, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014;

9. Decides to retain the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (Belize) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

37 COM 8C.2
Update of the List of World Heritage in Danger (retained properties)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC-13/37.COM/7A, WHC-13/37.COM/7A.Add and WHC-13/37.COM/7A.Add.
  2. Decides to maintain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger:
  • Afghanistan, Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam (Decision 37 COM 7A.29 )
  • Afghanistan, Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley (Decision 37 COM 7A.30 )
  • Belize, Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (Decision 37 COM 7A.16 )
  • Central African Republic, Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.1)
  • Chile, Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works (Decision 37 COM 7A.37 )
  • Colombia, Los Katíos National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.17 )
  • Côte d'Ivoire, Comoé National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.2 )
  • Côte d'Ivoire / Guinea, Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (Decision 37 COM 7A.3 )
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Virunga National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.4 )
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.5 )
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Garamba National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.6 )
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Salonga National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.7 )
  • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Decision 37 COM 7A.8 )
  • Egypt, Abu Mena (Decision 37 COM 7A.23 )
  • Ethiopia, Simien National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.10 )
  • Georgia, Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery (Decision 37 COM 7A.32 )
  • Georgia, Historical Monuments of Mtskheta (Decision 37 COM 7A.33 )
  • Honduras, Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve (Decision 37 COM 7A.18 )
  • Indonesia, Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (Decision 37 COM 7A.14 )
  • Iraq, Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) (Decision 37 COM 7A.24 )
  • Iraq, Samarra Archaeological City (Decision 37 COM 7A.25 )
  • Jerusalem, Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls (Decision 37 COM 7A.26 )
  • Madagascar, Rainforests of the Atsinanana (Decision 37 COM 7A.11 )
  • Mali, Timbuktu (Decision 37 COM 7A.19 )
  • Mali, Tomb of Askia (Decision 37 COM 7A.20 )
  • Niger, Air and Ténéré Natural Reserves (Decision 37 COM 7A.12 )
  • Palestine, Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Decision 37 COM 7A.27 )
  • Panama, Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo-San Lorenzo (Decision 37 COM 7A.36 )
  • Peru, Chan Chan Archaelogical Zone (Decision 37 COM 7A.38 )
  • Senegal, Niokolo-Koba National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.13 )
  • Serbia, Medieval Monuments in Kosovo (Decision 37 COM 7A.34 )
  • Uganda, Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi (Decision 37 COM 7A.21 )
  • United Republic of Tanzania, Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara (Decision 37 COM 7A.22 )
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City (Decision 37 COM 7A.35 )
  • United States of America, Everglades National Park (Decision 37 COM 7A.15 )
  • Venezuela, Coro and its Port (Decision 37 COM 7A.39 )
  • Yemen, Historic Town of Zabid (Decision 37 COM 7A.28 )
Draft Decision:  37 COM 7A.16

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7A.Add,

2.  Recalling Decision 36 COM 7A.15, adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012),

3.  Commends the State Party for the progress made in implementing certain corrective measures, but urges it to address as a matter of priority the critically important issues related to permanent cessation of the sale and lease of lands throughout the property, clear definition and strict control of development rights on existing private and leased lands, the restoration of areas disturbed by unauthorized activities and to make a clear commitment toward no oil exploration with the property;

4.  Welcomes the decision of the Government of Belize to develop an offshore oil exploration and exploitation policy that would be compatible with the World Heritage Status of the property and requests the State Party that the draft of such policy is provided for review by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;

5.  Urges the State Party to continue its efforts to implement the remaining corrective measure as updated:

a)  Implement the necessary legal measures to guarantee the permanent cessation of the sale and lease of lands throughout the property,

b)  Undertake an inventory of the lands previously disturbed by unauthorized activities with a view to identifying a set of practical solutions to restore the degraded lands within the boundaries of the property,

c)  Finalize the legislative instruments and policy documents relevant to the management of the property, including the Coastal Zone Management Plan, Land Use Policy Implementation Plan, National Protected Areas System Bill, Aquatic Living Resources Bill, Forest (Protection of Mangroves) Regulations and Petroleum Exploration Framework and ensure that the requirements for the protection and management of the property are addressed in those documents as well as in their implementation and financial plans,

d)  Make an unequivocal legislative commitment to eliminating all oil concessions granted within the boundaries of the property and adjacent waters and ensure that necessary legal and institutional instruments are in place to effectively control oil exploration and exploitation in areas outside the property which might have negative impact on its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV),

e)  Carry out a property-wide assessment of marine no take zones in the property, and based on ecological criteria, identify and put into place a process designed to expand them in those areas of the property where the OUV is considered to be most vulnerable to fishing pressures and climate change,

f)  Carry out an assessment of the threat arising from introduced species at the property, and develop and put into place a coordinated approach amongst its components to identifying priority actions for eradication and control campaigns;

6.  Notes with concern that the National Environmental Appraisal Committee of Belize approved the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Yum Balisi Resort without previously submitting it for review by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, and urges the State Party to suspend the signed Environmental Compliance Plan for the Yum Balisi Resort and not to renew it until the EIA of the project has been reviewed;

7.  Also requests the State Party to prepare, based on the updated list of corrective measures and the Retrospective Statement of OUV and in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, the draft proposal for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014;

8.  Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014, a report of the state of conservation of the property, including on progress made in implementing corrective measures, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014;

9.  Decides to retain the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (Belize) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Report year: 2013
Belize
Date of Inscription: 1996
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(ix)(x)
Danger List (dates): 2009-2018
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 37COM (2013)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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