It is said that almost 90% of the reef still remains to be researched. The Belizean Barrier Reef comprises of 36 soft coral species, 70 hard coral species, several invertebrate species and almost 500 species of fish. The Belizean Barrier Reef includes 450 cays, seven marine reserves and three atolls. It spans 960 km² in area and includes the Great Blue Hole, Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, Hol Chan Marine Reserve and several cays namely Ambergris Caye, Caye Chapel, Blackbird Caye, Maho Caye, Northern Caye, English Caye and others.
The Barrier Reef Belize is replete with fish and invertebrates such as corals, echinoderms, molluscs and crustaceans. The Belize Barrier Reefs not only attracts fish but also large animals such as sea birds, turtles, sharks and others which come to feed on the smaller inhabitants. New species of fauna are being discovered in the reef almost everyday. For instance, the semi enclosed lagoons of Pelican Cayes, a new hotspot has been discovered recently which has a rich collection of corals, sponges and other reef species.
Although the importance of the reef lay in the fishing industry initially, presently its use has shifted to tourism. Several tourists visit the reef every year from all parts of the world to experience its charming delights.
Since 1996, The Barrier Reef Belize has been designated as a World Heritage Site owing to its impressive natural beauty and rich bio-diversity. However, the reef continues to be under threat from uncontrolled shipping, tourism, fishing and oceanic pollution in spite of several protective measures that have been undertaken in the past to maintain its pristine nature and quality. Greatest damage to the reef also stems from factors such as agrochemical run-off, sedimentation, coastal development and natural calamities such as hurricanes.