Janet Gibson

Janet Gibson

Marine biologist and zoologist from Belize.

Janet Gibson is a key figure in the struggle to protect and conserve coastal and marine resources, particularly those related to the Belize coral barrier reef.

The coast of her native Belize, a Caribbean country that borders Mexico to the north and west and Guatemala to the south, is home to the second-largest coral reef on the planet, with great diversity and exuberance. Despite its unique characteristics, the Belize coral barrier reef suffered great degradation during the 1980s, mainly caused by pressures from unplanned and unsustainable development, overfishing, and proliferation of tourism activities. The situation attracted the attention of various institutions involved in protecting coastal and marine resources to protect this heritage, which is important not only for those who live nearby but for the entire earth.

Gibson, first as an advisor and partner with the Belize Audubon Society, a wildlife conservation organization, and later as the organization’s vice president, led an important campaign to establish and recognize the Hol Chan Marine Reserve (southeast of the town of San Pedro and the island of Ambergris Key), which was the first of its kind in Central America. It emerged as a community education project that covered a broad plan for managing coastal and marine resources and involved various interest groups such as the communities, fishermen, and governmental and private entities. The reserve protects an area of more than five square miles and has become part of an important strategy for stimulating sustainable economic development.

Because of the project’s importance, the Belize Audubon Society and Gibson, as its director, were awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for the Central and South American region in 1990. Gibson has also collaborated in the establishment of the Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve and has worked directly for the Coastal Zone Management Program of the Belize Fisheries Department.

Author: Harrison Flores Ortiz
Published: May 30, 2012.

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