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Clown fish swimming in the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia © Shutterstock / Andrey Nosik / WWF

Clown fish swimming in the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia © Shutterstock / Andrey Nosik / WWF

UNESCO puts Australia on probation: Reef health must improve

29 May 2015

Keywords
  • climate change
  • fight for the reef
  • great barrier reef
  • marine species
  • world heritage

WWF-Australia today welcomed UNESCO’s draft decision on the Great Barrier Reef.

“UNESCO has placed Australia on probation. The Australian and Queensland Governments must now deliver on their promises to better protect the Reef,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman.“

The draft decision acknowledges progress but keeps the pressure on the Australian Government to turn their commitments into real actions and results, or find themselves having to explain to the World Heritage Committee in 2017 why they’ve failed to meet their commitments.

“It also means that if the anticipated results of the Reef 2050 plan aren’t delivered, the Reef could be declared “World Heritage in Danger” in 2020.

“This draft decision is consistent with science and is in the best interests of the Reef. It will keep the pressure on Australia to turn around the decline of one of the natural wonders of the world,” he said.

Released overnight in Paris, the key points of the draft decision include:
 

  • The World Heritage Committee Notes with concern the conclusion of the 2014 Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report that the overall Outlook for the property is poor
  • The World Heritage Committee regrets that key habitats, species and ecosystem processes in the central and southern inshore areas have continued to deteriorate 
  • Australia must give a progress report on its Reef commitments to UNESCO by 1 December 2015 and if progress is not being made, the World Heritage Committee will again consider the Reef at its 2017 meeting
  • If the 2019 Outlook Report shows the same or a worse result as the 2014 Outlook Report then the Reef could be placed on the “World Heritage in danger list” in 2020.

 

“UNESCO has made the right decision. The future World Heritage status of the Reef should rightly be determined based on the actual condition of its precious corals and marine life - as assessed by scientists,” Mr O’Gorman said.

 

The Outlook Report, published every five years by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, is regarded as the most authoritative and comprehensive scientific assessment of the Reef’s condition.

 

“Every Australian wants the Reef to be protected and healthy for future generations to enjoy. This decision will help make that happen.”

 

“WWF and UNESCO recognise that Australia has made significant new promises in the Reef 2050 plan that, if fully implemented, will boost protection for the Reef.

 

“A key concern for WWF is that Australia’s plan to rescue the Reef is seriously underfunded and, without a significant increase in investment, risks failing to achieve its goals. 

 

“Further, the Queensland Government must fully implement its election commitments to ban sea-dumping of dredge spoil in all World Heritage waters and restrict capital dredging to the four major ports.

 

When it meets in Bonn next month, the World Heritage Committee can accept in full or modify the draft decision.

 

“WWF seeks a commitment today from the Australian Government that the 2019 Outlook Report will be based on science and will be reviewed by Australia’s leading, independent scientists, and will be free from political interference.

 

“WWF expects the Australian government to build on its recent commitments by supporting this draft decision and moving into action mode. WWF looks forward to working with government to deliver lasting results for the Reef.

 

Over 350,000 people from around the world have already joined WWF’s campaign calling for world leaders to defend the reef from industrial destruction.

WWF-Australia Media Contact:

Mark Symons, Senior Media Officer, +61 (0)400 985 571

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