Belize’s Supreme Court declared offshore drilling contracts issued by the government of Belize null and void, effectively ending the government’s immediate effort to allow offshore oil drilling in the Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world. Oceana has campaigned against offshore drilling in Belize for more than two years.
The Court's decision was in response to a lawsuit brought by Oceana, COLA, and the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage. In 2011, after collecting the 20,000+ signatures required to trigger a national referendum that would allow the public to vote on whether or not to allow offshore oil drilling in Belize’s reef, the government disqualified over 8,000 of these signatures effectively on the basis of poor penmanship - stopping the possibility of a vote. Oceana answered by organizing the nation’s first ever “People’s Referendum” in 2012 in which more than 29,000 people from all around the country cast their votes. In this historic vote, 96% voted against offshore exploration and drilling.
The Belizean government announced that all forms of trawling were banned in the country's waters. Oceana in Belize collaborated with Belizean Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s administration to negotiate the buy-out of the two shrimp trawlers. With this ban, Belize has become one of the first countries in the world to institute a complete and permanent ban on trawling in all its waters.
Belize’s Ministry of Fisheries agreed to stop issuing fishing licenses to foreign fishing fleets in the country’s waters pending consultation with local fishermen. The decision came after Jamaican trawlers entered Belize’s southern waters in December, when Oceana called on the government of Belize to suspend all plans and proposals to allow foreign fleets in territorial waters.