Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Is It Too Late to Save what,COs Left of Great Barrier Reef?

Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Is It Too Late to Save what,COs Left of Great Barrier Reef?

Article excerpt

Daniel Burdon

APN Newsdesk

IT IS the largest coral reef system on the planet. It is the worldCOs largest single structure of living organisms and can be seen from space.

It supports thousands of Queensland jobs, provides millions in tourism dollars every year and is one of just seven World Heritage Sites in the Sunshine State.

And it is under threat.

In the past 27 years, the combination of natural storms and cyclones, the crown of thorns starfish and coral bleaching have led to the loss of half of the reefCOs coral cover.

The 2009 report on the outlook for the reef also cited climate change; declining water quality from catchment run-off; loss of coastal habitats from coastal development; and the impacts of shipping, fishing and illegal fishing as other threats.

In its sobering report in October, the Australian Institute of Marine Science also predicted if current trends continued, the remaining half of the reefCOs coral would be gone within 10 years.

On top of the coral loss, numerous new port developments along the Queensland coast have compounded public concern for the reefCOs future.

The United Nations World Heritage Committee has long known of many of the threats; expressing its C[pounds sterling]extreme concernC[yen] last year after the Federal Government approved three LNG projects on Curtis Island in the World Heritage Area.

Construction of the three plants is under way, while a fourth proposed development on the island has stalled, but may still go ahead.

As part of the expansion, the Gladstone Ports Corporation is dredging 46million cubic metres of sediment from the seabed to create access for gas tankers.

The dredging played a role in a national controversy, with renewed questions in recent weeks over a possible link between fish health problems and the project.

Further north, a three-million cubic metre dredging project is proposed at Abbot Point near Bowen to allow for several new expansions at the port.

Those expansions were also on a list of projects that could impact the reef, which the Federal Government provided to the committee last year.

Since that list was handed over, the Queensland Government has abandoned an additional expansion at Abbot Point, recently asking for expressions of interest for a much smaller expansion in the area.

The Federal Environment Department was also waiting on environmental impact statements for the Dudgeon Point coal port expansion at Hay Point near Mackay and the Fitzroy Terminal at Port Alma near Rockhampton.

After a monitoring mission to the reef last year, the WHC recommended no new developments be approved outside of existing port areas and that a huge strategic assessment of the reef be completed. That is under way, with the Queensland Government and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority working on the report. …

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