Press Release – Oceana – May 11, 2010 - Oceana is opposed to any offshore drilling in Belizean territorial waters and says all it takes is one spill of the magnitude of the Gulf Oil spill for Belize to lose everything. The recently released map prepared February 2010 by the Geology and Petroleum Department has confirmed previous speculation that massive oil exploration concessions have been granted throughout the country of Belize. This map shows that even the territorial waters of Belize has been divided up amongst eight of the seventeen companies which are grantees of these lease.
Oceana is gravely concerned with the concessions already granted in Belize’s territorial waters especially seeing that they include declared reserves and national parks. A decision of this magnitude that can wipe out our tourism and fishing industry, eliminate our marine food security and devastate the viability of coastal communities, should be a transparent process with input from all social partners and the general public. It is therefore necessary for the Government to promptly explain the rational behind the massive parceling of our marine territory including areas encompassing our reef and atolls.
Oceana’s VP for Belize, Audrey Matura-Shepherd stated that “while we wish for our country to develop and progress we cannot do so to the detriment of our long-term survival. The recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana has shown us that even a rich and highly advanced country like the great USA is not equipped to handle such disaster, and thus this should teach us to proceed with much caution as one accident ten times less can wipe out our entire coastline and send Belize into an economic depression never seen before.”
In addition Oceana calls on the people of Belize to become more informed and involved in this issue since it will not only affect those living along the coast or near inland wells. The people of this country stand to gain very little from any oil exploration since as the recent disclosure of BNE’s operation and agreements have shown the bulk of the wealth from oil extracted does not remain in Belize. Belize as a country has not become any richer; nor any more developed as a result of the ongoing oil extraction taking place since the returns do not measure up to the risk taken. This risk is even more grave in our waters because of the ocean currents and the fragility of the marine eco-system.
Oceana calls on the Government of Belize to place a complete halt on all planned offshore exploration and to revoke all leases presently granted on our territorial waters.
(See Map Attached)