The opening of ANWAR to drilling by President Donald Trump was a major loss for environmentalists. My views in favor of preserving such areas are well known. However, the opening up of the entire coastline of the United States has angered even Republican governors and politicians. The position of the White House is that the drilling is too valuable to pass up, but now tiny Belize has shown the alternative view: the nation has permanently suspended oil operations in its ocean waters to protect the ocean.
For a developing country to forego such revenue shows a tremendous commitment to the environment. It also reflects that, unlike drilling, eco-tourism is a stable and profitable industry, particularly when you are sitting on the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage site. The reef not only brings in tourists but is the main food source for the island.
As we have discussed, the Australians took the pro-development approach under a prior administration on the Great Barrier Reef to the outrage of many around the world.
Tourism in Belize brings in $182 million to $237 million per year while fisheries support about 190,000 people.
73 thoughts on “Belize Permanently Stops All Drilling To Protect Ocean”
If you really want to help Belize, and the oceanic ecosystem in general, consider this foundation:
The founders have discovered a way to utilize plastic non recyclable trash. By making it valuable, it will be collected, help local economies, and help clean up the ocean. This is a fantastic, grassroots idea, that deserves a boost.
Currently, plastic is ubiquitous in the oceanic environment. It has broken down to microscopic levels, and has contaminated the food chain. This is madness. If we ever manage to poison marine phytoplankton, we will have destroyed the main oxygen suppliers of our planet. It is difficult to predict the future outcome of introducing microscopic particles of plastic contaminants into the food web, as well as the environment in general.
“Earth’s Oceans Foundation is focused on the mitigation of plastics in our oceans, beaches and waterways. We believe that people and business need to make more informed choices about single plastic use. All plastics need to be considered a resource and repurposed into raw material that can be used to create useful products.”
This foundation has developed innovative, creative ways to mitigate the problem. It is a fairly new foundation, with a potential global scope for improvement. Please consider contributing to their foundation, and pass their link on.
The way to vacation in Belize is by sailboat. I did a bareboat charter out of Placencia on a 40-foot catamaran some 15 years ago and there are indeed mangrove trees everywhere along with some really great scuba diving and snorkeling. We rarely ran into people and saw very few other charter boats during the entire week we were sailing around the pristine waters. We had the place practically to ourselves. Probably not so today.
Sailing is a lovely way to enjoy islands, as long as I remember to bring my Bonine. God bless that motion sickness medicine. I was finally able to enjoy sailing.
My favorite trip was when my friends and I rented a sailboat and traveled throughout the French Caribbean. Such a lovely time. There was this one tiny island that only had visitors who sailed there themselves. The water was this incredible pale blue, but then there was such a steep drop off. One moment, you were swimming over white sand, and the next, there was deep, dark, blue ocean. And God knows what could be down there, looking up at you…
I’ve never sailed a cat. Was it quite stable with the double hulls? I enjoy sailing, but literally cannot stomach power boats. The hull is apparently too shallow, which creates all those degrees of rotation. And then there are the fumes from the engine, right when you are fighting the motion sickness and trying to watch the horizon. And someone inevitably would leave the chum bucket right at the perfect place to cling to the railing and fight for equilibrium. Worlds apart for my inner ear, apparently – sailing and power boats.
Tbob – you can get the most wonderful, solid furniture on Belize. I wonder if you could cart it back by sailboat…
I found the catamaran to be very stable and fast and not nearly as much work as sailing a monohull. We chose a cat for that trip because we had a few geezers on board and it is much easier to get around on a cat, even while under sail, since there isn’t much heeling at all compared to the heeling you would have sailing on a monohull –so that’s a plus for older, less nimble people and those prone to seasickness. Plus it offered the most spacious accommodations for 10 people with four cabins and four heads, plus very nice living and dining space. I still prefer sailing monohulls, but I highly recommend chartering a catamaran sometime.
I didn’t do any furniture shopping, but I did bring back a bunch of hot sauce that I believe you can only buy in Belize called Marie Sharp’s Hot Sauce. Highly recommend that as well. 🙂
The cat sounds lovely. I’ve always wondered what they were like to sail.
It’s so true about a monohull heeling. I recall when I was in the French Caribbean, I was lying down, reading, when all of a sudden, I realized that I could see open sky between my feet, and then ocean, and then open sky. Oh crap. There was a squall far out on the horizon, but the swell had already reached us. I had to grab my shoes, which I’d tied up, and then claw my way back below. It was actually quite harder than I expected. Apparently I do not have catlike balance.
I’m a passenger rather than a sailor. I can be pushed and pulled to help trim sail, but it’s been years. Always wanted to take some lessons.
What is the quote that says the cure for everything is saltwater: sweat, tears and the sea? Never a bad idea to spend more time on the water.
Trashy beaches, em?
“There’s a great future in plastics.”
— The Graduate
I gotta bring this point up, especially for all you anti-petrol types. As you sit back, typing away, what are you typing on? The computer you are using and the keys your fingers touch are made of what? Did you say oil? Oil was it? That’s right, the stuff you wear and all those fancy electronic gizmos you love are made from oil. So as you sit down to prattle out some stupid rebuttal to me keep in mind you are a hypocrite if you are doing so on anything other than a computer made out of wood.
If your pea brain would think for a while, you would realize that oil extraction from the oceans presents a much greater hazard to the environment than from land. I hope I don’t have to explain why. There are plenty other energy resources that can satisfy the energy-hungry world. The problem is many people want cheap energy so they have more money to buy an iPhone x. I personally believe that the environment should be protected; it’s sad that most of the world seems to believe the earth is their dumping ground.
So in about 14 months we should anticipate a surge in the numbers of Belizians fleeing their bankrupt nation?
This is a complicated issue.
Burning trees for fuel pollutes more than fossil fuels, plus it removes our terrestrial oxygenators and air scrubbers. We now ship tons of wood pellets, cutting down our own forests, to Great Britain for them to burn as clean renewables. Wood pellets are considered renewable energy, because you can plant more trees. Great Britain has already cut down much of their own trees, so now we cut down ours to give them “clean energy.”
I happen to think that we should not drill in the ocean at all until and unless we can immediately cap any leaks or spills. That last spill that lasted for weeks showed that we cannot respond fast enough to such a foreseeable emergency. If we could immediately contain any spills, and there was little to no environmental impact, then I would support offshore drilling. But I do not believe we meet that requirement.
That said, do you know what Belize is known for, besides the beauty of its environment? Throwing trash on the ground. There is a cultural belief in Belize that when you are done with something, you just chuck it. The beaches are absolutely littered with plastic that is getting ground fine and mixing with sand. There are floating islands of trash all over the Pacific, fueled in part by the people of Belize. It is affecting their tourism industry.
So, it’s great that Belize is suspending offshore drilling, and importing their oil from other countries who extract oil for them. But Belize has little environmental holy high ground to stand upon. It should also focus its efforts on trash dumping. GOOGLE photos of trash dumping in Belize to see beaches packed with dirty trash and plastics. And they get fawned over because they are not drilling anymore? Belize was basically in the oil exploration stage, and was not giving up an enormous infrastructure. This was just a proposal that was dropped, because it is near a World Heritage Site. That threatened its major economic driver – tourism (which is also threatened by all the trash which they try to keep out of sight of the major tourist sections.)
Karen, “the cultural belief” of throwing trash on the ground is not limited to the denizens of Belize. For several years now author David Sedaris has spent his afternoons picking up trash (or rubbish as the Brits call it) around his adopted village in Britain
“”… There are forests, and it’s just what beauty means to me. But English people throw everything out their car window, and the roadsides are carpeted with rubbish, so that’s what I do with my life now: I pick up rubbish on the side of the road. I do it on my bike. I do it on foot. The local council has given me an outfit and a grabber.”
I hate littering!!!
It is so true that there are people who pitch rubbish out their window, but in Belize, it’s exponentially greater. Finished drinking your bottled water? Chuck it on the ground. Finished eating? Chuck the rubbish on the ground as you’re walking.
There is not the same attitude towards littering and rubbish bins that there is in most First World Countries. We often have gangs of people sentenced to community service picking up trash along freeways and roadsides, because of littering. But we are not littered everywhere because there is some social contract involving the disposal of trash and rubbish. There is no equivalence with Belize and other Third World countries, because everywhere is not a tiny microcosm of the West.
There are a lot of efforts to combat that attitude towards littering in Belize, and some really creative solutions. I wish them every chance of success.
I hit reply a bit too soon, and was going to connect burning trees to fossil fuels.
We must be very cautious about unintended consequences. Here are some unintended consequences from feel good policies that were enacted in the beta test stage, based on emotion:
The requirements to diversity UK’s energy portfolio into clean renewables has led to the the US exportation of tons of wood pellets, which are considered renewables. That means we cut down our trees, and consider that “green,” as far as a carbon credit. That affects our atmospheric moisture and removes some oxygen generators. Of course, on the other hand, tree farming can be considered just another crop in wetter areas that do not need irrigation. So the impact depends on if this was monoculture cropland, or if diverse forests are getting replaced by monoculture.
Biodiesel led to clearcutting of rainforest to plant GMO crops used for biodiesel, with enormous spraying, exposing workers and the environment to herbicides and pesticides, and where it happens in orangutan habitat, has led to the near extinction of the species. But that’s considered green on paper.
If we make fossil fuels too costly, then people cut down trees to heat their homes. Already, we have seen an increase in mailers for wood pellet stoves, in order to combat the rising cost of heating a home. That’s a net loss for the environment.
The use of wind turbines have killed more birds than fossil fuels, but with a strange impunity. Many migratory birds are killed by the chopping blades, and yet they are not prosecuted the way a fossil fuel driller would be if a single swallow drowned in an oil pit. The chopping sound of the blades is highly irritating to people, and can negatively impact wildlife. Again, green on paper. They should have waited until they developed better technology before carpeting mileage in the turbines in their beta test stage.
I am excited at the prospect of developing ultra clean, renewable energy at low cost. We have made great strides to combat air pollution. I hope the trajectory of that trend continues, but the fires erode some of those gains.
Oh, and before anyone brings up oil subsidies, one of the biggest oil subsidies is low cost energy to the poor. That is one of the biggest subsidies, and yet no one would actually want it to go away. Another oil subsidy affects farmers, because their farm machinery is exempted from certain fees that affect vehicles that go on roadways. Combines don’t drive on freeways, typically, so this doesn’t apply to them. Again, subsidy. Plus they get the domestic manufacturing deduction that companies have received since 2004 to keep operations at home, and the foreign tax credit, which allows all companies to deduct the taxes they pay foreign governments from profits used as a domestic tax base. Those are obvious but they are also labeled subsidies.
Karen S. said, “There are floating islands of trash all over the Pacific, fueled in part by the people of Belize.”
Karen S. also said, “I contend that you are not familiar with Belize.”
Maybe Karen S’s reference to The Pacific Ocean was a typographical error. Maybe the trash from Belize makes it way through The Panama Canal all the way up and back down again to The Pacific Ocean. Maybe via that route the 170,000 people of Belize are contributing more than their fair share to the floating islands of trash all over The Pacific Ocean. But then, again, if the currents in The Panama Canal flow both ways, then maybe The People’s Republic of China contributes more than its fair share of trash to the beaches of Belize. Maybe I’m still trying to familiarize myself with Belize. Or not.
Lol. Bad grammar. I was trying to express that Belize is not the only plastic problem. It also exists in the Pacific. As far as Belize the Sargasso currents exacerbate the problem.
Thank you for pointing out my bad prose. It did not make sense as written.
And you have not addressed my point. Belize is being lauded as ahead of the United States in environmental moral superiority. However, its oil was not profitable and was a risk to a tourist attraction that was profitable, and the island is infamous for throwing trash on the ground. They have inadequate trash disposal infrastructure. In addition, oceanic currents carry more trash in. That is the true existential crisis to Belize ecology. Their laurel wreath is not earned…yet. But it can be. I cannot understand why the massive amounts of plastic litter is not prioritized more.
Karen S. said, “And you have not addressed my point.”
I can explain that. You see, your point hinges upon a juxtaposition between trash (relatively small problem) versus the risk of oil spills (comparatively big problem). Did you notice that the population of Belize is only 170,000 (not counting tourists)? How much of the “massive amounts of plastic litter” can 170,000 people generate? BTW, more than half of the population of Belize live inland at higher elevations. The port city, on the coast, Belize City, has 58,000 residents. All of the remaining coastal towns have much smaller populations–in the thousands rather than the tens-of-thousands. IOW, your point is too nit-picky.
Speaking of ocean pollution, have they stopped the Fukushima meltdown yet? Does the ocean spontaneously resolve nuclear pollution or will it soon arrive in Belize and elsewhere? Maybe Belize can put lids on volcanoes too so that erupted volcanic material doesn’t spread around the world. And what about the recurring, deep sea, natural oil realeases, will those hit Belize?
Off site from Fukushima Dai-ichi radiation levels are too low to be of rational concern.
Trump is a drill baby drill guy like Sarah Palin was a drill baby drill gal. There is not coast in da USA that is safe from da T rump team of drillers and polluters.
Glad you brought that up. Look at Florida. Lots of oil offshore. None can be drilled. Guess who is drilling right off Florida. Cuba. Third world Cuba. Wouldn’t you rather have US companies paying US workers under US oversight to drill off Florida rather than Chinese oil rigs staffed by Cubans drilling just outside the territorial limit of Florida?
Before you answer realize that the keys you are typing on are made from petroleum.
Next we can shift to Santa Barbara, California. They have lots of oil too. The beaches in Santa Barbara are literally inundated in oil as it drips up to the ocean surface and washes ashore. Wouldn’t it be environmentally smart to collect that oil rather than allow it to soil California coastline day in and day out?
I feel like your argument should probably stay away from Santa Barbara…not only are there at least two active oil rigs there, but they had a pretty rough experience with oil that you may want to google…
I guess I will go to Belize on vacation. Where is it?
Good for Belize. The US is a plunderer, first and foremost. It’s hard to believe that so few people care about nature, wild animals, & the environment. The endgame to caring only about humans is that the human experience is worse over time. Most people no longer give a rat’s rear–thank you, Belize.
Of course tourism is ironic. What’s not?
It’s hard to believe that so few people care about nature, wild animals, & the environment.
Maybe it would be easier to believe once you posted the statistics reflecting your statement to be true. In the meantime, you may want to reconsider Belize’s believable decision after learning their oil production was losing revenue.
Your comment got me to looking! From July 2, 2017:
Sheeesh, a whole 1,000 barrels per day??? No wonder Belize ended it! For the fish, you know.
That was the same link I posted at 8:38am. I believe that’s the operational definition of spin on behalf of environmentalism.
Sorry! I did not read all the way down the thread. I just googled “belize oil production” and that was the first thing that popped up. I did not mean to usurp your link.
It was worth repeating. 😎
LIberals think they are the only ones who care about the environment, and from there they make the false conclusion that only they know how best to conserve the environment. They should study a little Theodore Roosevelt before they embark on a cause that ends up destroying what they claim to hold dear.
JW re: “The US is a plunderer, first and foremost.” not just the U.S. Greed — short term profit gain — exists all over the globe. Human nature
“It’s hard to believe that so few people care about nature, wild animals, & the environment.”
I completely agree. As a matter of fact, I said exactly that when they began the total destruction of California by importing the population from the third world and building billions of highly profitable housing tracts and freeways. You’d never know it but California used to be a beautiful, pristine American state; Orange County actually had orange trees and no “Little Saigon” or “Little India” and Santa Ana was American, not a 100% Mexican “sanctuary city.”
And there were wild animals too.
“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
– Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto
But that it were true!
George – don’t forget to include the massive fire caused by a homeless encampment, encouraged and enabled to camp in the dry brush hillside, stuffed with alien grasses under the chaparral, and exempted by Democratic politicians from the building and safety rules everyone else must follow.
Jack – how much do you think Belize cares about the environment? Ever see the trash strewn all over the beaches because there is a tradition of just throwing trash on the ground when you’re done with it? Or the dismal trash disposal infrastructure? They work hard to keep some key areas looking better, due to tourism, but you should do a little GOOGLE searching, and then, please, tell me who cares more about the environment, Belize, which gave up a proposal for oil exploration that would have threatened their big moneymaker tourist attraction, meanwhile throwing garbage into the ocean, or me.
This is the problem with emotional arguments. I feel like I care more about the environment than you, therefore I must be right.
Belize sure doesn’t. As others have mentioned they gave up a bustling 1000 barrels a day in production. The world’s population use 96 million barrels of oil a day. So hand it to Belize they courageouosly stopped 0.001041666% of the production. Where’s that earth environmental award???
And US as plunderer? Where do I send the foreign aid figures to you? Bellevue?
Good for Belize! Hope they can make a go out of the eco tourism trend like Costa Rica has.
States with coastlines should be able to decide whether they want off shore drilling. Here in lovely Charleston we do not. We already have negative eco impacts from the hideous cruise ships and hotels being built all over the peninsula.
There is a certain irony in eco-tourism: pristine wildernesses and beaches flooded with tourists and cruise ships operators who want to bring people to nature by inundating it with manmade conveniences.
True Darren. I despise cruise ships – every time I see one I think of Legionnaire’s Disease. A floating petri dish of microbes disgorging passengers who head to the Market to buy cheap junk Made in China and waddle back to the ship. Most do not frequent our local restaurants having stuffed themselves on board. .
And there are the effects on the city:
” Equivalent in size to small towns, cruise ships generate many pollutants, toxins, and carcinogens. Cruise ships idle for ten hours during every port visit, emitting plumes of smoke with high levels of harmful air pollutants, which cause asthma, heart disease, and cancer. Ships can lawfully discharge treated sewage within three miles of shore, but the treatment technology is outdated. They can discharge untreated sewage and garbage ground to one-inch pieces when they are three miles from shore. This pollution negatively affects water quality.” (Coastal Conservation League)
Tourism is a mixed blessing — $$$ and some increased amenities but also tearing at local fabric.
I’m guessing those cruise ships are paddled to Belize.
For a developing country to forego such revenue shows a tremendous commitment to the environment.
That would certainly be a tremendous commitment if if they were actually foregoing the revenue. According to this article, it would seem that it was more of a logical conclusion.
While the price of oil is increasing, the amount is still at a level where it is unprofitable for oil companies to conduct oil exploration in Belize. Cho said that none of the six companies with oil concessions are conducting exploration.
“The companies are saying that, ideally, they would want to see oil go up to about US$80 a barrel before they start exploring again. And it’s no where near that at the moment,” Cho said.
Turley said, “. . . eco-tourism is a stable and profitable industry . . .”
While I agree with Turley, I simply must quibble with him, anyway. The stability and profitability of eco-tourism (the same as any other sector of the tourist trade) is predicated upon the development of a leisure class with sufficient disposable income as to sustain the eco-tourist industry. Not to mention passenger airline service and related forms of fossil-fuel consuming modes of transportation. As I’m sure Turley knows, there are certain extreme environmentalists who oppose eco-tourism on those grounds. While I vehemently disagree with those extreme environmentalists, I just can’t help exploiting them for the sake of quibbling with Turley.
Turley may be an expert on constitutional law, but obviously not in economics. “eco-tourism” is tourism. The “eco-” label just makes liberals feel good about themselves. Tourism takes a hit after the hurricane does.
You’re kidding. Do you mean to tell me that the starving general populace of Socialist paradise North Korea and Venezuela lack the funds and the free time to be eco-tourists, and shore up economies around the world in order to protection international environmental treasures? Are you saying that capitalism generates the revenue that saves the environment? And that fossil fuels makes the eco-tourism world go round?
Yes. I’m kidding–Turley, for the most part. Meanwhile, even if the serfs in North Korea could afford an eco-tour to Belize, their feudal government would not allow it any more than any other feudal government would. Conversely, as I’m sure you know, merchantilism [not capitalism] is a mixed bag of good and bad.
For instance, the guy who started The National Park Service is also the guy who started The Internal Revenue Service. Go figure. As for fossil-fuel transportation systems, that is mostly a matter of productive efficiency, since employers could not afford to give employees sufficient vacation time to travel to Belize and back again using either animal power or wind power.
P. S. perhaps Allan hoodwinked you into thinking that L4D truly is a Stalinist. If so, then you should’ve known better. If not, then you already did know better. Didn’t you?
Tiny Belize has made itself greater than The United States of America.
Your nuclear button is wee.
I contend that you are not familiar with Belize. It protects its reefs because they have become valuable income generators to capitalist tourists. The beaches are covered in trash because people just throw it on the ground, and they try to frantically keep it away from tourists. You have to wade through trash on a lot of beaches to even reach the ocean.
Greater than the US? Really? Because it abandoned an oil project that was losing money in favor of an already established revenue generating heritage site reef? That’s superior morality? Because it looks like a basic economic decision.
Now, if they can only learn to not throw every bit of garbage on the ground, that would be real progress.
And flippies! Why can’t people hold onto their flippies! How many flippies can there be in the entire ocean when they all wash up on Belize?
May I add that although the people of Belize throw their trash on the ground, there is also the problem of oceanic currents washing up trash that others have thrown on the ground or that washes out storm drains.
Belize contributes mightily to the problem.
Rafts of Sargassum break free and net plastic, and contribute to pushing it upon shores around the Caribbean and elsewhere, where it rots and stinks. That is part of its natural ecology, but the plastic hitchhikers are not. So poor Belize is hit from all sides – detritus from oceanside and landside.
There are so many opportunities for the international community to help Belize ecology, and for islanders themselves to improve their own habits.
I remember during the 1970s that litter was a large problem where I lived. Not only limited to highways and such, it affected restaurants and theaters. The culture then was irresponsible. In the theater, the floors were covered with empty popcorn boxes, cups, and the floors were sticky from pop spills. In fast food restaurants, customers did not clear the tables.
Toward the latter part of the decade, we began to witness genuine effort to clean up. Though stereotypical, I do believe programs sponsored for television commercials showing the problem of littering and asking others to refrain from doing so, even those showing a proud Indian man suffering the indignity of trash tossed to his feet. How much influence this garnered I’m not aware but certainly efforts such as this had benefit. Eventually society simply changed its approach toward trash. Eventually, social pressure began to compel people to be responsible for their trash. Though certainly not completely, it remains much better than decades ago.
As an aside, it is unfortunate that the experience of litter did not continue into industrial pollution and contaminates in less visible forms. In that respect the ecology movement came to a halt. I blame environmentalists in part for this in that they politicized their cause and sided with only one side of the political spectrum at the exclusion and to the derision of others not exactly aligned with their political beliefs. This is evidenced by the fact that nearly everyone agrees that trash on beaches is a problem, but when we talk about polluted oceans far too many conversations devolve into political intrigue, posturing, and backstabbing.
I remember those commercials. The grieving Native American commercials were some of the most moving about the environment, although it turned out he was a Portuguese actor.
The one that really stuck with me the most, though, was where there was a baseball game going on, and a kid dove to get the ball. The camera froze the moment the child realized he had dove onto a pile of broken glass, the instant just before he hit. Those efforts were fruitful to combat littering, which is why I have confidence the problem can be vastly improved in other countries.
I also agree with you about the politicization of environmental and conservation groups. I was a member of the Sierra Club for many years, but eventually couldn’t stand the entire member magazine bashing Republicans from cover to cover, in every single issue. It is now clearly just another Democratic PAC, and anyone who is not far Left need not apply. That is so sad, because I believe that environmental groups should be inclusive. It’s self defeating to alienate half the country. If they really cared about bringing people together to improve our living conditions, they would have made teamwork and inclusiveness their tools. The tone has become quite hateful in recent years, which has driven some people away.
Karen S. said, “Greater than the US? Really? Because it abandoned an oil project that was losing money in favor of an already established revenue generating heritage site reef? That’s superior morality? Because it looks like a basic economic decision.”
I must say I’m rather surprised to see you draw such a stark distinction between economic decisions versus moral decisions. It reads like self-serving apologetics to me. For if only we could assiduously apply moral philosophy to a critique of the wretched excesses of our merchantilist economic system, then America might someday become as great as tiny Belize.
P. S. The last I heard the coast of Belize was thoroughly dominated by mangrove swamps. So maybe you’re right. I might be unfamiliar with Belize. Or not. I’ll check and see, then report back.
This just in from the World Resources Institute article on Belize:
Mangroves: Unlike coral reefs, which can protect wide swaths of the coast, mangroves protect the immediately adjacent shoreline. Mangroves, which can mitigate the force of both waves and storm surge, shelter about half of the mainland coastline and about 75% of the shoreline of cayes. We estimate that there are between 400 and 420 sq. km of mangrove within 1km of the coastline of Belize (including all cayes). Where mangroves are present, they contribute between 10–35% of the stability of the shoreline. The value of shoreline protection services provided by mangroves is estimated at US$111–167 million per year.
Stay tuned for the part about beaches.
Here’s the skinny on beaches in Belize:
When people mention, as I did above, that Belize is on the Caribbean, it’s natural to assume that the country is lined with pristine sandy beaches. Unfortunately, it’s not.
But the most popular places for visitors to the country are the offshore islands, known locally as cayes (pronounced keys), so those must have excellent beaches, right? Sadly, again, no. There definitely are some great beaches in the country and they are in quite a few different regions, but it’s important to realize before you book your trip that most of the country’s shoreline is not suited to sunbathing at all. Mangrove forests in one form or another grow naturally along most of Belize’s coastline, and while these are a very important part of the overall eco-system, they make sunbathing and even swimming very difficult. Even if you go out past the trees you’ll find the footing below very slimy.
There’s no reason to feel bad if you haven’t heard of mangrove forests before. They inhabit tropical areas throughout the world, and are especially common on coastlines opposite barrier reefs. Belize has the world’s second largest barrier reef that basically spans the entire coast of the country, and the mangrove forests are part of the equation. Put simply, mangroves are not a species of tree but rather a general type of tree that can live in shallow salt water. There are four types of mangroves in Belize: red (the most common), black, white, and buttonwood.
These mangrove forests provide shelter and feeding areas for many species of fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and even mammals. They also stabilize the shores and protect them from erosion. Most of the cayes would be smaller or non-existent if not for the mangroves, so much of what’s excellent about Belize is due at least partially to these slimy coastal forests. They are very interesting to explore even if they do ruin all beach party possibilities.
The good news, in a way, is that many of the developed parts of Belize have cleared big sections of mangrove forests away. Every time someone buys a plot of land near the beach the next step is usually to clear the mangroves away. This makes for wonderful views, but it also exposes these areas to beach erosion and massive future hurricane damage.
Many of the smaller cayes have few or no mangroves around their perimeters, but if sandy beaches are important to you it’s a good idea to ask. Both Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye had natural mangrove forests on their Caribbean shores, and some of this has been cleared, but the majority remains in its natural state. Again, if sandy beaches are a key to you enjoying your stay you should definitely ask before you book a place.
Pretty much everyone agrees that the best beaches in the country are found along the long Placencia Peninsula. There are large sections that are nothing but sand all the way up to the warm water.
Caye Caulker has several cleared sections of beach, mostly directly in front of hotels that cleared them. There might be enough room to play Frisbee while you take a break from sunbathing, but the beaches tend to be small and unspectacular. There’s a beach area up by the Split, but again, it’s not really postcard-worthy.
On Ambergris Caye there have been more sections cleared, particularly in front of the more posh resorts. The north part of the island also has some naturally clear beaches, but these aren’t too close to the resort areas.
If you want to come to Belize and large pristine beaches are high priorities you should probably go to Placencia Peninsula somewhere. But it’s important no matter where you want to go that you check out exactly what the hotel is advertising. If they have a nice beach out front they’ll probably show photos of it. You can’t just assume that because a place is close to the shore on a map that there’s a nice beach between your room and the water. In many cases there will be a modest beach at your disposal, but you can’t just assume this will be the case, especially if you are booking into a cheaper place.
Here’s the link to the article posted above:
The CIA Worldbook claims there are 386 km (241 mi.) of coastline in Belize. Thus far I have found one beach in Placencia that is 15 miles long and another beach elsewhere that is 5 miles long. Presumably there are more than twenty miles of beach in Belize. However, I can not yet confirm nor deny that presumption. In any case, the known 20 miles of beach would be roughly 8% of the coastline of Belize.
I don’t understand your point. Why are you bringing up the mangroves or the cayes? What does that have to do with Belize getting credit for environmental superiority when in fact, they gave up an unprofitable oil exploration? Nor does it address the crisis in Belize of litter.
The point is the comparative sizes of the problems you are juxtaposing. The trash problem is picayunish. The risk of oil spills is anything but picayunish. As such, it’s like you’re telling us a role-reversal fable in which the lion [petro-chemical plastics industry] sticks a thorn in the mouse’s paw [beach-goers in Belize]; and the people of Belize are then blamed for the wretched excesses of the lion’s petro-chemical, plastics industry.
But there aren’t many beach-goers in Belize; because there aren’t many beaches in Belize; because there are beaucoup mangroves in Belize. So how much oceangoing trash piles up in the mangroves? And how did the trash that the people of Belize toss on the ground get past the mangroves and into The Gulf of Mexico?
Maybe the trash on the beaches is NOT the trash that the people of Belize tossed on the ground. Maybe the trash in The Gulf of Mexico is NOT the trash that the people of Belize tossed on the ground. If not, then why blame the 170,000 people of Belize for the trash on the beaches and the trash in The Gulf of Mexico? Well, how else shall one shift the blame from the petro-chemical plastics industry to the people of Belize?
One essential problem with off-shore oil drilling is what is referred to as a Single Point of Failure. We suffered such a fate with the tragic spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Essentially an entire ecosystem is held vulnerable to a set of safety valves on an oil rig. Especially for a country such as Belize, from an economic perspective only, major industries such as tourism and aquaculture gets destroyed due to one point of failure. If a fishing boat sinks, it is rather benign. But an oil rig presents untold horrors.
No one advocates for oil spills but it is my recollection that the gulf spill didn’t cause the predicted horrors. Like flying what is the percentage of an accident happening.
Darren, any percent is too much. Like nuclear war – altho not as catastrophic. Yeah, I do fly. But it’s safer than driving.
Really? Nothing is 100% certain. With that mindset, we would never have developed past our ancient ancestors. As for nuclear war, should we have just kept fighting Japan killing more of our soldiers?
Naturally occurring seeps on the ocean floor continually release oil into the ocean.
Scientists studying natural seeps off the Santa Barbara, California coast concluded: “Natural Petroleum Seeps Release Equivalent Of Up To 80 Exxon Valdez Oil Spills”. Imagine how large the seepage number must be for the 71% of planet Earth covered in ocean.
Turns out, microbes like eating the compounds emitted in the oil. So the bacteria eat much of the oil, and the by-product that remains sinks to the ocean floor and becomes part of the natural sediment. You may recall that some scientists claim the reason the Gulf of Mexico “disaster” wasn’t nearly as bad as initially feared is because the microbes pigged out.
Shouldn’t be long before we’ll be hearing and reading about the need for regime change in Belize.
Ask 100 Americans between the ages of ~20 to ~40 years of age where Belize is located.
Dollars to donuts at least 2/3 will say… Somewhere in the Middle East?
Belize? I bet Trump would say gesundheit.
SN – Not Europe? =) I have met people who confuse Austria with Australia!
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