North America’s Largest Coral Reef Is No Longer in Danger

The Belize Barrier Reef
Photo: Courtesy of Belize Tourism Board

A couple weeks ago, I met some corals for the first time off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii. It was pretty rad. Now, I have a newfound appreciation for the animal and any good news about it.

So here’s some: The Belize Barrier Reef is no longer on the World Heritage Committee’s List of World Heritage in Danger as of Tuesday. Nearly 10 years have passed since the massive coral reef system, which includes over 96,000 hectares of lagoons, forests, and estuaries, joined the “Danger” list.

Aerial shot of the Belize Barrier Reef
Photo: Courtesy of Belize Tourism Board

Apparently, when it comes to protecting this natural wonder, Belize has been on it—by placing a moratorium on marine oil exploration and increasing protections for mangroves, which help retain sediment to keep waters clean.

This is no small accomplishment. Reefs around the world are deteriorating. Half of the Great Barrier Reef, for example, has died since 2016. Much of the blame falls on warming waters—which will only worsen with climate change—but pollution, overfishing, and ocean acidification all threaten reefs, too.

Beautiful, majestic coral
Photo: Courtesy of Belize Tourism Board

So the Belize Barrier Reef is safe for now, but that could very well change as climate change drives coral reefs over the edge. And that matters because corals are more than a majestic sight. They support countless fish that people depend on for food and support huge tourism economies.

For now, let’s enjoy this win because it’s not every day that a giant coral reef system is actually doing well. There is literally nothing like these alien-like organisms, and we still have so much to learn from them.


Cheers to the Belize Barrier Reef. I need to plan a trip to Central America next.

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About the author

Yessenia Funes

Senior staff writer, Earther. The one who "pulls the race card" in the name of environmental justice. You dig?

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