Great Blue Hope, or Muddied Waters in Belize?



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Belize, a country at once in Central America and the broader Caribbean, is defined by blue every which way you look. Even its national flag is tinged with azure hints. Yet, what stands out most in this hue is the country’s access to the ocean. There’s its almost 300 km of coastline, to say nothing of the Belize Barrier Reef — a designated World Heritage site extending another 250 km wide. This makes it the second largest reef system in the entire world.

Moreover, a good deal of the country’s population lives off the “green” of such blue: 40% of the country’s total contribution to its GDP is derived from tourism, mostly marine-based. Together with shipping and fishing, a majority of the country’s income comes from da see (as it’s known in the local Kriol). Even much of the country’s waste management system relies on the ocean.

Belize is inextricably tied to its blue economy, and whence goes the ocean, likely goes its future.

The United Nations defines the blue economy as "a range of economic sectors and related policies that together determine whether the use of ocean resources is sustainable.”

From the prospect of new cruise ports to balancing the needs of reef restoration and local fishers, the country’s economic dependence on marine resources is as clear as its tropical waters. What’s not as clear is how green or environmentally conscious these efforts to shore up its blue economy are. This EJN collaborative special report is focused on the challenges, as well as solutions, Belize faces in this sphere.

"Great Blue Hope, or Muddied Waters?" is part of EJN’s project on “Strengthening Blue Economy Journalism in Belize.” The Great Blue Hole is one of Belize’s most famous attractions, as well as a vital feature of its marine ecology. “Muddy waters” is a reference to the origin of the very name “Belize” and the fact that the path forward for the country’s blue economy is anything but ultramarine.

Project map of where the stories are reported from. Please click on a pin for more details.

"Great Blue Hope" brings together four Belizean journalists and their news outlets to report on how the country is adhering to the tenets of a blue economy, while also pointing out where it could be falling short. Hipolito Novelo and Jose Antonio Sanchez from Channel 5 and Punta Gorda TV/Channel 7 News focus on coral reef restoration and its relationship to local livelihoods. Marco Lopez and André Habet from Amandala and Plus TV explore environmental impact assessments in the country, which are being used (and potentially abused) in the development of new cruise ports and beyond.

This collaboration and these stories compel audiences to ask tough questions: Who and what benefits from the current status quo in Belize’s blue economy? Who and what are being left out? What are the challenges and solutions going forward?

Belize has an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the ocean covering an area roughly the size of Belgium. This same EEZ includes one of the world’s most important reef ecosystems, and its EEZ-to-GDP ratio is one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere.

As a months-long effort to facilitate collaborative journalism, many of the partners have shared sources, content and other resources in order to work across media cultures and transcend historical rivalries. The idea is to move beyond the threat of being scooped and increase the reach of Belizean environmental journalism through collaboration. "Great Blue Hope" covers a challenging topic in the best spirit of cooperative news media.

EJN hopes this model will help demonstrate how journalists can cover complicated environmental topics, including one with as many cyan facets as the blue economy.

To read related stories not published as part of this collaboration, please click here and navigate to "Related Stories."


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Project Partners

amandala c5 plustv Punta Gorda TV c7





Project Editor and Coordinator Design Editorial Assistance

Sam Schramski

Signi Livingstone-Peters

Amrita Gupta


Rosmy Sophia

Signi Livingstone-Peters

Photo credit: Marco Lopez.

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