WWF says more protection is needed for Great Barrier Reef

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has warned that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef could be at risk of appearing on UNESCO’s “danger list” if more decisive action is not taken to protect the world’s largest coral reef from a boom in the gas and mining industries. (Featured image by fugm10)

The leading charity, which works to protect endangered wildlife and environments, tackle climate change and promote sustainable use of resources, has directed criticism at the Australian Government.

This is principally for what it sees as a failure to address concerns about how a number of large-scale projects in liquefied natural gas, tourism and mining could impact the reef.

Scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef

Scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef. Image by Paul Toogood

In June, UNESCO demanded that Australia set out an action plan to safeguard the Great Barrier Reef’s status, with the deadline for demonstrating how it would meet targets to improve management and protection of the reef coming at the end of last week.

The WWF and the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) will this week asses the Australian government’s progress using a scorecard.

“Australia is falling short of what’s required to save the Reef,” said Richard Leck, WWF’s Campaign Director in Australia.

“The dismal scores highlight our grave concerns that UNESCO is going to have no option but to recommend the reef be put on its unenviable ‘List of World Heritage in Danger’ – the list of shame.

“The impact of that would be felt right throughout Queensland’s economy, especially its Aus$6 billion (£3.9 billion) reef tourism industry. Australia’s reputation is on the line.”

Crown-of-thorns starfish

Crown-of-thorns starfish. Image by mattk1979

However, speaking to the AFP agency, Tony Burke, Australia’s Environment Minister, reaffirmed that the government was “absolutely committed” to protecting the reef, with Aus$200 million (£131 million) already invested in a Reef Rescue programme.

He confirmed that an additional Aus$800,000 (£524,000) would be invested in tackling the issue of the crown-of-thorns starfish, which are devastating the reef.

Mr Burke added: “We have made substantial progress in addressing the recommendations made by the World Heritage Committee, including agreement to conduct one of the most comprehensive strategic assessments ever undertaken in Australia.”