Kate Walsh, the famous Doctor Addison Montgomery on the hit series, Grey’s Anatomy, was in Belize over the past weekend. But she wasn’t here on vacation, she was here as an Oceana activist. Walsh, whose visit was to raise awareness on Belize’s Barrier Reef and the fragile ecosystem, met with local journalists for a one day visit to the Blue Hole. Principal among Walsh’s messages was a statement on Oceana Belize’s call to protect the sea by banning offshore exploration and drilling. News Five’s Andrea Polanco joined Walsh in the deep blue.
Andrea Polanco, Reporting
The Belize Barrier Reef boasts healthy populations of diverse flora and fauna. Being one of the most unique ecosystems in the world, it has attracted tourists, researchers, and environmentalists. What many locals have come to know is the pristine splendor of this renowned part of Belize; but the reef serves more than just a staple of aesthetic beauty and it is just as vulnerable as it is visually captivating.
Audrey Matura-Shepherd, President, Oceana Belize
“I think maybe if I can think about one thing that happened already on our way here was when we were behind the reef on our way here the water was calm because the reef was holding back a lot of the pressure and surges that was going on. Once we came out of the reef, we weren’t protected anymore and that is the perfect example how Belizeans can see that your reef is like your front yard fence and if you break it down by exposing it to all kinds of dangers and it will deteriorate and you’ll remove that front yard barrier. That is one of the things that definitely help us anytime we have bad weather. The other thing that helps us is our mangroves and that is like the burglar bars on your window and we are cutting it down.”
But over the years, this captivating part of Belize that so few locals know about has come under threat from over fishing; pollution; equipment damage and offshore development. But very soon, it may become susceptible to an even bigger threat- offshore oil drilling. As a part of its mandate to help protect the world’s oceans, Oceana has teamed up with Actress, Kate Walsh.
Kate Walsh, Actress
“It’s incredible here. This is some of the best snorkeling that I’ve ever done in the world and it’s so pristine here in Belize and it’s so well taken care of and the water is super warm and it’s gorgeous.”
“I know that in the past few days you have been doing a number of things; tell us about that experience?”
“Yeah, yesterday we were out on a boat all day with Seaduced and we went to Hol Chan and then we went to Shark Ray Alley which was incredible. We stayed out all day which was so beautiful and we had lunch out there and kept swimming and anchored and snorkel. We saw so many things and I was super impressed with Hol Chan Reserve and how well taken care of. We saw so many sharks and rays and everything; the species of crab that I’ve never seen and it was amazing.”
Alright. Now, you’re here on behalf of Oceana. What is it that you hope to take back when you return?
“Honestly, I hope that this bit of publicity actually gives the world a better idea of how pristine and beautiful the waters and the people are. I’ve had, like I was telling you, the fry jacks and with the culture and how gorgeous it is and I hope that we can keep it in tact and preserved for generations to come. The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System includes seven marine reserves, four hundred and fifty cayes, and three atolls. It also home to The Blue Hole which is a jaw-dropping natural beauty of Belize that measures one thousand feet across and four hundred and twelve feet deep. This ocean-floor sinkhole is believed to be the deepest in the world. Just eight miles away is the Half Moon Caye Natural Monument.”
Shane Young, Marine Protected Manager, Belize Audobon Society
“First and foremost, Half-Moon Caye Natural Monument is unique in its own kind. The main reason why Half-Moon Caye became protected was because of the white phase red-footed boobie birds. Half-Moon Caye has one of the healthiest nesting colonies for that species of birds. What also makes it unique is that just south of us; we have an amazing dive site locally known as the Half-Moon Caye Wall. Also interesting is that Half-Moon Natural Caye Monument and Blue Hole Natural Monument fall under the World Heritage Site status, nuh. It is unique and at the end of the day, it is unique because of its geological features; its cultural value and social value that these two protected areas have for the Belizean people.”
Words cannot express the splendor and magnificence of Belize’s natural beauty. However, Belizeans must continue to protect nature.
“Let us keep it that way rather than go into oil offshore drilling than just the limited time span that the oil have; it’s not a lifetime guarantee that oil will remain there so it is important for us to maintain what we have now for the future and just not think about the short term benefits.”
“The problem with off-shore oil drilling is that there is always a potential for accidents and no matter how many back up plans or safety measures that are put into place, accidents can happen that eclipse all safety measures. We’ve seen it in the Gulf and off the Coast of Australia and it is mess and I would hate to see; it is such a beautiful treasure that Belize has and I wouldn’t like to see that destroyed this sort of Garden of Eden that you guys have here.”
“Her trip here has served many purposes; since she left and came to Belize, she has been tweeting that she is in Belize and that is so good for the tourism industry. Having had that firsthand experience and having had that following, she is then a voice to our reef because our reef can’t talk and our fishes can’t talk so she is an international voice for them. What she is saying to the rest of the world is that Belize has something wonderful and what she is saying to Belizeans is yeah, you got to protect it and telling the rest of world you need to help them protect it.”
Source: Channel 5 Belize