In June 2015 the UNESCO World Heritage Committee made a historic decision for the Great Barrier Reef that put the Australian government on probation until the Reef’s health improves. The Australian Government now has until 2016 to show that its rescue plan is working and until 2019 to demonstrate it has stopped the decline of the Reef. The most significant features of the decision are:
- The World Heritage Committee expressed concern that the outlook for the Reef is poor and key habitats and species have continued to decline, and listed climate change, poor water quality, and coastal development impacts as the major threats.
- The Committee will continue its vital role as a watchdog to ensure Australia “rigorously implements all of its commitments”.
- An acknowledgement that the existing financial commitment to the Reef 2050 plan is an ‘initial’ amount – a clear indication the Committee recognizes that the plan is underfunded.
- If the Reef’s World Heritage values continue to decline, then an ‘in-danger’ listing will almost certainly be delivered at the 2020 meeting.
Just 12 months ago, the Australian Government had approved plans to dump millions of tonnes of dredge spoil from mega-port expansions into the Great Barrier Reef’s waters. On 1st July, that approval was overturned and WWF expects a ban on dumping from new port development in the Reef’s World Heritage waters to be in force within months. Read more HERE The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) stretches 2,300 kilometres along the Queensland coast and includes over 2,900 reefs, and around 940 islands and cays. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is 345,000 square kilometres in size, five times the size of Tasmania or larger that the United Kingdom and Ireland combined! The reef is immensely diverse. It is home to more than 1,500 species of fish, 411 types of hard coral, one-third of the world’s soft corals, 134 species of sharks and rays, six of the world’s seven species of threatened marine turtles, and more than 30 species of marine mammals, including the vulnerable dugong. Add to that stunning marine suite as many as 3,000 molluscs and thousands of different sponges, worms and crustaceans, 630 species of echinoderms (starfish and sea urchins) and 215 bird species, of which 22 are seabirds. The GBR is listed under all four natural World Heritage criteria for its outstanding universal value.
READ MORE AT THE WORLD WILDLIFE FUND WEBSITE