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The longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere is located in Belize, and it is a 240-mile coastline dotted with hundreds of cays and marine atolls. Is only surpassed in size by the Australian Great Barrier Reef and is the home where live more than 500 species of fish and 3 kinds of sea turtles. Biodiversity is also abundant there, with the presence of lagoons, low-tree forests, American Crocodiles, and North American Manatees. It also counts with places for world-class diving such as Mermaid's Lair.
Nowadays, the entire barrier is under threat and highly exposed to climate change, though it was declared by UNESCO as the World Heritage Site in 1996, Intensive overfishing and near-shore industrialized activities have increased the pressure on the ecosystem, causing harm to the underwater species.
Like many Latin American countries, Belize is running out of financial resources and they do not have enough money to foster environmental protection. Likewise, due to the recent pandemic, tourist visits dropped dramatically and its recovery has been increasing softly. That is why the country is now looking for solutions to preserve their essential capital while they support the industries affected (around 50% of the habitant depend on sea jobs and feed).
Many environmental organizations are now working to facilitate a financial mechanism to help Belize, and they committed – in exchange – to protect at least 30% of their coastal territory as part of their annual payment.
An example of success in this matter is Seychelles. They received a $22 million debt to restructuring in the year 2008 and until now they have been able to recover and protect more than 150,000 square miles of ocean. As part of their commitment, the country has applied restricted regulations to their waters, including applying solely places to dive, marine preserve areas, and no-fishing zones in areas one-time overfishing territories.
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