The Australian government has announced it will invest AUD $60 million in research and conservation programmes to reduce damage to the Great Barrier Reef
The Australian government has announced it will invest AUD $60 million in research and conservation programmes to reduce damage to the Great Barrier Reef.
A critical national asset, the Reef extends over 2,300km along Australia’s east coast, the largest coral reef on Earth.
One of the most biodiverse habitats in the world, it is home to more than 9,000 separate species and provides $6.4 billion a year to the local economy, including supporting around 64,000 jobs.
Climate change has been a particular threat to the Great Barrier Reef in the last few decades, with approximately 80% of the Reef affected by coral bleaching and a severe cyclone in March 2017, as well as the crown-of-thorns starfish.
Immediate plans will put $36.6 million into reducing water pollution from farming practices, whilst $5million will go towards employing extra personnel to monitor and protect the reef from bleaching.
One of the major contributors to the habitat’s decline in recent years is the poisonous crown-of-thorns starfish, which has decimated large areas of coral; the government has pledged $10.4 million to tackle this problem alone.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that the plans would “develop the next generation of tools and technologies to protect the Reef and help it recover from bleaching, cyclone damage and other ongoing threats”.
He added that the excessive pessimism surrounding the Reef’s future “poses a real danger because it undermines the popular support for the efforts that are being undertaken here, and of course undermines the whole reef economy”.
Many environmental groups have criticised the government for failing to sufficiently act, however.
Dr Nikola Casule of Greenpeace Australia said in a statement: “If Mr Turnbull genuinely cared about our precious Reef and the people who depend on it, he would get serious about fighting climate change instead of engaging in fantasy solutions that ignore the real issue.
“The Reef is now in the early stages of an unprecedented third consecutive year of bleaching.
“It bleached in 2016 and 2017 and the Turnbull government did nothing.
“The science is clear: dangerous global warming is the biggest threat”.
Read More: Experts at the Commonwealth Secretariat have provided a preview of the Blue Charter initiative, which aims to mobilise international cooperation on ocean-related commitments and will be formally launched at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April 2018