Pollution cuts not enough to save the Reef

Posted on 12 June 2014  | 
Coral reef destroyed by crown of thorn starfish or by coral bleaching. Great Barrier Reef & Coral Sea, Australia.
Coral reef destroyed by crown of thorn starfish or by coral bleaching. Great Barrier Reef & Coral Sea, Australia.
© Jürgen Freund / WWF-Canon Enlarge
The results of the Reef Report Card released today by the Queensland and Australian Governments fall well short of what is needed to save the Great Barrier Reef, and well short of the government’s own targets, according to WWF-Australia.

Key implications of the Report Card results:

A massive shortfall in efforts to control the destructive Crown of Thorns Starfish:
  • Governments originally planned a 50% reduction in nitrogen flows to the Reef by 2013 – but they’ve only achieved 10%. They’ve now given themselves a five-year extension until 2018 to get 50% cuts.
  • Cuts of up to 80% of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) are needed to control the coral eating crown of thorns starfish, but the Report Card shows there has only been a 16% reduction over 4 years.
  • Getting the pollution cuts the Reef needs will require a multi-billion dollar rescue package.

Dredging and dumping plans undermining savings:
  • The report card shows there has only been a 1.5 million tonne reduction in suspended sediment in recent years.
  • At the same time, the Queensland and Australian Governments have approved the dumping of 3 million cubic metres (approximately 3.9 million tonnes) of dredge spoil in the Reef World Heritage Area near Abbot Point.

“Today’s Report Card shows the Queensland and Australian Governments are way off the mark when it comes to meeting their own targets for improving water quality,” WWF spokesperson Sean Hoobin said.

“If we want the Reef to survive, we needs billions, not millions of dollars committed – as happened with the Murray-Darling rescue package.

“Many farmers are putting in the hard yards to improve practices to help stop pollution flowing to the Reef, but our Governments need to do much more and commit serious dollars so we can have productive agriculture and a healthy reef.

“While the farming community has started to step up to the plate and address threats to the Great Barrier Reef, the resources industry are now set to undo that good work with destructive plans for dumping in the World Heritage Area."

WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said the Great Barrier Reef is both an economic and environmental asset.

“With proper management we can have viable agriculture, fishing and tourism industries, as well as an environmental wonder to pass onto our children,” Mr O’Gorman said.

“The World Heritage Committee is taking their responsibilities seriously, and we urge the Queensland and Australian Governments to respond to the concerns of the Committee and the Australian community .”

WWF Media Contact: Daniel Rockett, National Media Manager, 0432 206 592, drockett@wwf.org.au, @DRock1978
Coral reef destroyed by crown of thorn starfish or by coral bleaching. Great Barrier Reef & Coral Sea, Australia.
Coral reef destroyed by crown of thorn starfish or by coral bleaching. Great Barrier Reef & Coral Sea, Australia.
© Jürgen Freund / WWF-Canon Enlarge

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