UNESCO will keep reef on watch list as it's not 'in danger'

THE decision by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to keep the Great Barrier Reef on the 'watch' list for another four years shows that the reef is still at risk of being listed as 'in danger.' 

The Australian Government needs to do more to protect it, according to the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS).

 AMCS Great Barrier Reef campaign director Felicity Wishart said the World Heritage Committee's decision requiring the Australian Government to report back in 2016 and again in 2019 has reinforced the fact that the Reef is fighting for its life.

"The Great Barrier Reef today remains at risk of being listed 'in danger' and the Australian government has more work to do to stop the Reef being ruined," she said.

"We caution people to be wary of Australian government spin suggesting the Reef has been given the all-clear.

 "The reef is in trouble."

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Meanwhile lawyers from US-based Earthjustice and Environmental Justice Australia, said if Australia does not take stronger action at the domestic and international levels to address climate change - the greatest threat to the reef's long term survival - it will remain open to the Committee to list the Reef as "in danger" in 2017.

"The World Heritage Committee found that the outlook for the Reef is poor and that climate change, poor water quality, and coastal developments are major threats to the health of the Reef," Environmental Justice Australian lawyer Ariane Wilkinson said.    

"It recognized the importance of Australia restricting major new port developments and limiting capital dredging to ensure the 'future conservation' of the Reef, and it imposed an 18 month review upon Australia.

"The World Heritage Committee's decision shows that the international community is watching Australia - and it does not like what it sees," Earthjustice's Australian lawyer Noni Austin said. 

"The evidence is clear: climate change is one of the greatest threats to the Reef's long term survival.  But at a time when we must burn less coal, Australia is proposing to expand coal export terminals like Abbot Point on the Reef's coast. 

"These port expansions directly harm the Reef and enable Australia to open massive new coal mines in the Galilee Basin - adding insult to injury by exacerbating climate change."

Minister for the Great Barrier Reef Dr Steven Miles said the decision affirmed the Queensland Government's commitment to protecting the reef and the jobs it provides.

"It sends a strong message to the world that we are standing up to save this international icon and have taken decisive steps to turn the health of the reef around," Dr Miles said.

"Tourists can rest assured that the reef will continue to be one of the best managed marine areas in the world and I encourage them to come and visit this living wonder."

UNESCO announced the decision late yesterday.



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