Pesticides running into the Great Barrier Reef

Harmful concentrations of pesticides are being detected up to 60 kilometres inside the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, and nearly one-third of the reef is now exposed to herbicides.

Herbicides are designed to kill weeds. But once the weeds are dead, the chemicals are being washed into rivers, estuaries and eventually coral reefs, where they can continue to harm marine plants and threaten the animals that depend upon them.


Pesticides are silent killers; they can’t be seen in reef waters, but we know they are there.

The reef is home to peaceful dugongs, ancient turtles and beautiful dolphins. The habitat of these animals is at risk from chemical pollution.

Pesticide pollution is eroding the resilience of the reef, reducing its ability to absorb shocks and recover from stress. We must remove these stresses so the reef has the best possible chance to withstand the looming impacts of climate change.

WWF wants our national pesticide watchdog – the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority – to take a safer approach and give the benefit of the doubt to human health and the environment, not the pesticides industry.

We also feel alternative farm practices and products exist which can lighten the risks to the Reef and improve a farmer’s bottom line.

Click here to read more about what WWF is doing to reduce fertilisers and pesticides in the reef.