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Sugar cane fields, North Queensland © Kerry Trapnell / WWF-Aus

Sugar cane fields, North Queensland © Kerry Trapnell / WWF-Aus

WWF: Attack on Reef science disregards Townsville’s standing as a global leader in marine research

16 Aug 2019

Keywords
  • great barrier reef
  • farming
  • climate change
  • environmental laws
  • food production
  • marine pollution
  • tourism

TOWNSVILLE: The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia said the attack on Reef science, being encouraged by the CANEGROWERS organisation, disregards Townsville’s standing as a world leader in marine research.

James Cook University is the number 1 ranked university in the world for marine biology and its largest campus is in Townsville. The Australian Institute of Marine Science is headquartered in Townsville.

“Townsville is a global centre of excellence for coral reef research,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman, who toured both facilities on Friday 16 August. 

“WWF is seeking a meeting with CANEGROWERS to seek common ground on a shared commitment to sound science.

“Tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars have gone to cane farmers to improve practices based on the accepted science that farm run off harms the Reef.

“It is hypocritical to accept that funding and then attack the science that underpins it,” he said.

Mr O’Gorman said the science shows sediment and chemicals washing off farms are harming the Reef. 

Scientists hit back

The Australian Coral Reef Society, founded in 1922, responded to the attack on Reef science, saying it was “deeply concerned that members of the Queensland public are being misinformed about the role of water quality in supporting a healthy Great Barrier Reef”.

Federal Minister Sussan Ley backs Reef science

After snorkelling on the Reef this week Ms Ley made this comment regarding Reef science: “Tourism operators are saying they want somewhere to go to say that is the truth. My answer is they can go to AIMS.”

Nitrogen pollution is a problem all over the world

One estimate put the annual cost to the European Union of nitrogen pollution’s environmental impacts at between €70 billion and €320 billion.

In the United States, it’s estimated nitrogen from fertilizers and manures washed off farmland costs Americans $157 billion a year in damages to human health and the environment

Nutrient runoff and sediment from the Mississippi River contributes to a low-oxygen, dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico that can stretch for 20,000 km2

Balanced approach

Mr O’Gorman said the Reef regulations before the Queensland parliament are part of a balanced approach to protecting the Reef.

“We need to maintain funding for on-farm innovation to reduce run off and improve productivity, and we need regulations to move those farmers who have not yet adopted best practice,” Mr O’Gorman said.

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