Australia has declared that it will ban dumping of sediment in the marine park area of the Great Barrier Reef, but not in the entire World Heritage Site. This matters because, according to environmental pressure group Fight for the Reef, in recent years 80% of dumping has been in World Heritage waters just outside the Marine Park.
During a speech in Sydney at the World Parks Congress, Environment Minister Greg Hunt said that the government will legislate a ban on dumping.
Spoil will still affect Coral and Seagrass
A ban in just the Marine Park, though, would still allow millions of tonnes of spoil to be dumped where plumes can easily drift onto coral and seagrass.
The expansion of Abbot Point, to make it one of the world’s biggest coal ports in middle of the Great Barrier Reef is still going to go ahead – this time with the dumping of toxic sludge on wetlands. Wetlands are the filters and the fish nurseries for the Reef.
Groups press to protect entire World Heritage Area
Environmental groups are pressing for the government to protect the entire World Heritage area or risk an ‘in-danger’ listing for the Reef from the World Heritage Committee.
Practically the entire Great Barrier Reef was inscribed as a World Heritage site in 1981. It contains the world’s largest collection of coral reefs, with 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc. It also contains habitats of species like the dugong and the large green turtle, which are threatened with extinction.
In June 2015 the World Heritage Committee will decide whether to place the Barrier Reef on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Fight for the Reef is a partnership between WWF-Australia and the Australian Marine Conservation Society.