The government of Belize recently announced the establishment of a marine reserve around the Turneffe Atoll, a remarkable and diverse coral reef system of 1,365km². The designation of this new protected area has been made possible by funding from the Bertarelli Foundation, which has committed itself to preserve the atoll fauna and flora in the future.
Some 300km long, the Belize Barrier Reef is a true marine treasure. Part of the 900km-long Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS), it is home to an incredible number of plants and animals and is considered to be one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Hard and soft coral species and more than 500 species of fish have been found in its turquoise waters.
Establishing a Turneffe Atoll marine reserve represents the missing link in a chain of protected areas that currently extend across 3,866km² of Belize’s territorial waters. In 1996, seven areas of the MBRS received UNESCO World Heritage Site protected status, but the Turneffe Atoll was excluded.
The Bertarelli Foundation has been working with local stakeholders, such as the Turneffe Atoll Trust and the fishing community as well as international partners such as the Oak Foundation.
A spokesperson for the Bertarelli Foundation said:
“Last time we helped create the largest marine reserve in the world in the Chagos Archipelago, in the middle of the British Indian Ocean Territory. With this intervention we are helping to protect one of the world’s most magical reefs much closer to areas in which people live. The Turneffe Atoll and its rare creatures are of huge value to Belize in themselves, but also for the ecosystems services and tourism potential they provide, which are literally world-class”.