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  N/A

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

International Assistance

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

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided to the property: USD 80,000

Previous monitoring missions


Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2008

There is a great demand for land on which to carry out tourism related real estate development projects in the Caribbean. The many islands of the Belize Barrier Reef have not escaped global investor attention and in this regard, projects are already being aggressively pursued (see for example: http/:www.treasurecovebelize.com).

In late 2007, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN received many reports of impending land sales and development near and within Bacalar Chico National Park (one of the seven components of this serial property), involving the changing of protection status of part of the property. In a response to a letter sent by the World Heritage Centre, the State Party explained that no decision had been made for changing the protection status of any area within the property.

In early 2008, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN received new and detailed information on another portion of the property, including aerial photographs plainly illustrating significant parts of the reef system at Pelican Cays (a group of mangrove islands and coral reefs located within the South Water Caye component of this serial property) having been cleared of mangrove forests and filled with sand and coral rubble extracted from shallow waters adjacent to these Cays. The reports received on these actions claimed that the ecosystem on large parts of two mangrove islands, nearby coral patch reef and sea bottom ecosystems, all located within the property, have been completely destroyed. The information indicated that government departments had not issued mangrove clearing or dredging permits in that area. In a letter to the State Party dated March 5th 2008, the World Heritage Centre requested information on these reports and has not yet received a reply.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that such uncontrolled developments are not compatible with World Heritage status and further, stress that healthy and well conserved mangrove forests and coral reefs are essential to maintain the resilience of the property in the face of predicted impacts from climate change. This is an important issue to consider in the context of previous petitions to inscribe this property on the List of World Heritage in Danger based on the predicted impacts from climate change.

Given the apparent lack of control over development activity within the property, development projects are underway within its boundaries, resulting in the incremental destruction of its outstanding universal value and associated conditions of integrity of the property. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN


Decision Adopted: 32 COM 7B.33

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-08/32.COM/7B,

2. Expresses its serious concern at the reported destruction of mangrove and coral reef ecosystems within the property with accompanying adverse impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value and the integrity of the property;

3. Requests the State Party to urgently ensure that these destructive activities cease immediately and that the affected areas be ecologically rehabilitated; and to inform the World Heritage Committee of any existing or proposed development plans in waters / cays within or adjacent to the property as required under Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;

4. Also requests the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, to develop a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value including the conditions of integrity, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009;

5. Further requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission in 2008/2009 to assess the extent of the reported damage and the state of conservation of the property;

6. Requests moreover the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2009, a report on the state of conservation of the property, including measures taken to stop the destruction of mangroves and coral reefs and a description of progress in rehabilitating the reported damage to the property, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009, with a view to considering, in the absence of substantial progress, the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.