American actress Kate Walsh’s recent visit to Belize to raise awareness of the Belize Great Barrier Reef and coastal marine life was one more example of the environmental organisation Oceana’s commitment towards assisting Belizean efforts to protect their rich marine heritage, the Lodge at Chaa Creek’s environmental studies coordinator said today.
Speaking from the Chaa Creek Natural History Centre, Joe Awe praised Oceana’s ongoing efforts to bolster local environmentalists’ efforts.
“Oceana has been a very good friend to Belize over the years and with little fanfare or recognition has been working with Belizean organisations to address some of our most pressing concerns.
“For example, Oceana was instrumental in helping local environmentalists have the incredibly destructive practice of trawling banned from Belizean waters, and even assisted in purchasing the remaining trawlers so that they could be repurposed.
“It’s also impressive how Oceana coordinates high profile celebrity activists with the efforts of locals to achieve impressive results,” he said, noting that actor Ted Danson has also been active in Belize.
Ms Walsh, described as an “Oceana activist”, arrived in Belize on World Oceans Day, June 8, to help raise awareness about Belize’s rich biodiversity and its importance to the economic and social stability of the country.
While in Belize she snorkelled the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley near Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker before visiting Belize’s Great Barrier Reef, the world’s second largest and listed by UNESCO as an important World Heritage site.
Her Belize Barrier Reef excursion included visits to Half Moon Caye and the Great Blue Hole, the subject of a Jacques Cousteau documentary and one of the world’s most sought after dive sites.
Ms Walsh’s visit included a media entourage to raise awareness of the beauty and fragility of Belize’s marine ecosystem and the need for greater protection. She expressed disappointment that Belize’s pristine Lighthouse Reef Atoll, one of the world’s largest and most diverse atolls is currently under an oil concession held by Princess Petroleum, and expressed her opposition to offshore drilling in Belize and other ecologically sensitive areas.
“As rich as Belize is in natural resources, we are very limited in financial and other resources, so the need to strike a balance between development and protection is crucial. It is clear to most Belizeans, the vast majority who depend on tourism for a living, that oil drilling and other environmentally degrading practices are incompatible with our future. Our voices are sometimes overwhelmed by corporate giants, so to have recognised celebrities like Kate Walsh and Ted Danson add their voices to our local efforts is very valuable, and we local environmentalists can’t thank them and Oceana enough for their continued support in Belize,” Mr Awe said.
Photo credit: Tony Rath