Belize Barrier Reef is a series of coral reefs straddling the
coast of Belize, roughly 300 meters (980 ft) offshore in the
north and 40 kilometers (25 mi) in the south within the country
Belize Barrier Reef is a 300-kilometer (190 mi) long
section of the 900-kilometer (560 mi) Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
System, which is continuous from
Cancún on the north-eastern tip of
Yucatán Peninsula through the
Riviera Maya and up to Honduras,
making it the second largest coral reef system in the world after the
Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It is Belize's top tourist
destination, popular for scuba diving and snorkeling and attracting
almost half of its 260,000 visitors. It is also vital to the country's
Charles Darwin described it as "the most remarkable reef in the West
Indies" in 1842.
In addition to its barrier reef, it also boasts three distinct
Caribbean atolls: Turneffe Atoll,
Glover's Reef and Lighthouse Reef.
Lighthouse Reef is the most easterly diving area in Belize, it is home
to the Great Blue Hole, made famous by
Jacques Cousteau in 1970;
Atoll lies directly to the east of
Belize City and is the
nearest of the atolls to the capital. These different reefs provide
diverse scuba diving opportunities that include walls, pinnacles and
reef flats that are located throughout an enormous area of sea.
2 Environmental protection
4 See also
6 External links
Belize Barrier Reef is home to a large diversity of plants and
70 hard coral species
36 soft coral species
500 species of fish
hundreds of invertebrate species
With 90% of the reef still needing to be researched, it is estimated
that only 10% of all species have been discovered.
A large portion of the reef is protected by the
Belize Barrier Reef
Reserve System, which includes seven marine reserves, 450 cayes, and
three atolls. It totals 960 square kilometres (370 sq mi) in
Glover's Reef Marine Reserve
Great Blue Hole
Caye Marine Reserve
Caye Natural Monument
Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Cayes include: Ambergris Caye,
Caye Chapel, Carrie Bow
Caye, St. George's Caye, English Caye, Rendezvous Caye, Gladden Caye,
Ranguana Caye, Long Caye, Moho Caye, Blackbird Caye, Three Corner
Caye, Northern Caye, Tobacco Caye, and Sandbore Caye.
In 1996 the Reserve System was designated a
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site due to
its vulnerability and the fact that it contains the most important and
significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological
diversity (according to criteria VII, IX, and X).
Belize became the first country in the world to completely ban bottom
trawling in December 2010. In December 2015,
offshore oil drilling within 1 km of the Barrier Reef.
Despite these protective measures, the reef remains under threat from
oceanic pollution as well as uncontrolled tourism, shipping, and
fishing. Other threats include hurricanes, along with global warming
and the resulting increase in ocean temperatures, which causes
coral bleaching. It is claimed by scientists that over 40% of Belize's
coral reef has been damaged since 1998.
Belize Barrier Reef has been affected by mass-bleaching events.
The first mass bleaching occurred in 1995, with an estimated mortality
of 10 percent of coral colonies, according to a report by the Coastal
Zone Management Institute in Belize. A second mass-bleaching event
Hurricane Mitch struck in 1998. Biologists observed a
48 percent reduction in live coral cover across the
Usually, it is hard to distinguish whether the reason for coral
bleaching is human activities or natural reasons such as storms or
bacterial fluctuations. But in the case of the
Belize Barrier Reef,
many factors which make the distinction difficult do not apply. Human
population in this area is much more sparse than the corresponding
areas near other coral reefs, so the human activity and pollution are
much lower compared to other coral reefs and the
Belize reef system is
in a much more enclosed area.
When coral bleaching occurs, a large part of the coral dies, and the
remaining part of the ecosystem begins the process of repairing the
damage. But the chances of recovery are low, as corals that are
bleached become much more vulnerable to disease. Disease often kills
more corals than the bleaching event itself. With continuous
bleaching, the coral reef will have little to no chance of
Green sea turtle
Green sea turtle with remora fish on its back
Close-up view of the reef
Barrier reef aerial
Snorkeling the reef
Fan corals of the reef
Belize Barrier Reef photographed from the International Space
Station in 2016
List of reefs
World Heritage Sites in Danger
^ a b Harrabin, Roger. (2006-06-12) Reef at forefront of CO2 battle .
BBC News. Retrieved on 2011-10-21.
^ "Scuba Diving in Belize: The Blue Hole, Ambergris and Turneffe
Belize Barrier Reef Case Study. Westminster.edu. Retrieved on
^ "Guatemalans trawling in Belize’s southern waters". Channel 5
Belize. 27 February 2013. Retrieved on 2013-02-28.
Belize Bans Bottom Trawling in Exclusive Economic Zone".
Oceana.org.8 December 2010. Retrieved on 2013-02-28.
^ "Government Implements Ban On Offshore Drilling". 7 News Belize.
Retrieved 23 December 2015.
Coral Collapse in Caribbean". BBC News. May 4, 2000. Retrieved on
October 21, 2011.
^ Brian Handwerk and Lauri Hafvenstein
Belize Reef Die-Off Due to
Climate Change?. National Geographic. March 25, 2003
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Belize Barrier Reef.
UNESCO World Heritage website
Protected areas of Belize
Five Blues Lake
Gra Gra Lagoon
Laughing Bird Caye
St. Herman's Blue Hole
Actun Tunichil Muknal
Half Moon Caye
Thousand Foot Falls
Fresh Water Creek
Mountain Pine Ridge
Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes
South Water Caye
Nim Li Punit
Serpon Sugar Mill
Community Baboon Sanctuary
Corals and coral reefs
Coral reef fish
The Structure and Distribution of
Catlin Seaview Survey
Spur and groove formation
List of reefs
African coral reefs
Belize Barrier Reef
Coral Sea Islands
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Great Barrier Reef
Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System
New Caledonia barrier reef
Raja Ampat Islands
Southeast Asian coral reefs
Black band disease
Skeletal eroding band
White band disease
White pox disease
Coral Reef Alliance
Coral reef protection
International Society for Reef Studies
Aquaculture of coral
Coral reef organizations
Environmental issues with coral reefs