Just days after the US declared its intent to unshackle energy producers by opening up huge offshore swathes for oil drilling, the small Central American nation of Belize did the opposite – imposing a total moratorium on such drilling in its waters.
Belize, formerly British Honduras, voted unanimously for the ban in its legislature.
Officials say the country is introducing the ban in order to protect its barrier reef, the biggest in the Americas, and a big tourist attraction.
Although Belize produces a relatively small 3,000 barrels of oil per day, oil still constitutes a quarter of the nation’s exports.
But the politicians and popular opinion said the potential damage of a drilling mishap could do incalculable damage to tourism and the fishing economy.
Belize’s Barrier Reef Reserve System, the world’s second biggest, has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996 and not surprisingly, a spokesman for UNESCO congratulated the Belize authorities for their ban.
The country has instituted offshore bans before. In 2013 the Belize Supreme Court banned offshore drilling over environmental concerns but that injunction was suspended and then, in 2015, the government moved towards opening up mots of its territorial waters.