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Sediment plumes from dredging associated with the further development of the harbour. Gladstone Harbour, Queensland © WWF-Australia

Sediment plumes from dredging associated with the further development of the harbour. Gladstone Harbour, Queensland © WWF-Australia

Report vindicates campaign against dredging and dumping in Reef waters

25 Mar 2015

  • marine pollution
  • climate change
  • coral
  • great barrier reef

A report by independent experts has vindicated the campaign to rid the Reef of the impacts of dumping dredge spoil in the World Heritage waters of the Great Barrier Reef.

The report ‘Synthesis of current knowledge of the biophysical impacts of dredging and disposal on the Great Barrier Reef' was written by experts brought together by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

WWF-Australia National Manager Marine Conservation Richard Leck said while the experts did not always agree on impacts the report contained important conclusions, including:

  • Any contribution from dredging to large-scale, chronic increases in suspended sediments could affect coral reefs, seagrass habitats, some other seafloor biodiversity, pelagic (open water) and estuarine habitats, fish populations and wildlife.
  • Suspended sediments may have serious impacts on recovery of reefs from other disturbances (reducing resilience); such impacts would not be detected in most environmental impact assessments and are potentially important given the degraded condition of many inshore reefs in the regions where dredging takes place. 

“The experts are saying that sediments from dredging could seriously deplete the resilience of coral – its ability to cope with the normal stresses in its habitat,” Mr Leck said.

“This could be slowly killing coral but the way most environmental impact assessments are designed this would not be picked up at all.

“Another significant finding is that the experts now say dredging will contribute much less fine sediment in the future because of the dumping ban imposed by the Queensland and Federal Governments.

“This is an important result for the Reef and we congratulate everyone who has contributed to achieving this ban.

“However, we repeat our call for the Federal Government to ban dumping in the entire World Heritage Area and not just the marine park,” he said.

The experts also call for more extensive, long-term and better integrated monitoring and assessment of dredging and dredge disposal in the World Heritage Area.

WWF-Australia Media Contact:

Mark Symons, Senior Media Officer, 0400 985 571

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