Australia announces billion-dollar funding to protect Great Barrier Reef

Sydney, Australia, Jan 28 (EFE).- Australia announced Friday a further AU$1 billion ($704 million) aimed at protecting the Great Barrier Reef, which last year came close to being added to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

The Great Barrier Reef was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981 and stretches 2,300 kilometers off the northeastern coast of Australia.

The cash injection, which brings the government’s Reef 2050 Plan funding to more than AU$3 billion will “back world leading marine science, the deployment of new climate adaptation technology, major investments in water quality programs, and state of the art on-water management practices to reduce threats from Crown of Thorns Starfish, protect key species and prevent illegal fishing,” according to a government statement.

“We are backing the health of the reef and the economic future of tourism operators, hospitality providers and Queensland communities that are at the heart of the reef economy,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in the statement.

Environmental organizations praised the announcement, although they stressed the need to speed up action against the pollution of the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral system in the world, as well as against climate change.

“Action on water pollution needs to be complimented by real action on climate to drive down emissions this decade. The science is crystal clear that the Government must significantly step up their action on climate in order to protect the Reef,” which has already been hit hard by massive coral bleaching events in 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017 and 2020, warned Richard Leck, head of oceans at WWF-Australia.

At the end of 2020, the International Union for Conservation of Nature downgraded its rating of the Great Barrier Reef from “significant concern” onto its “critical” list. The reef continues to be at the mercy of climate change.

“Currently areas of the Great Barrier Reef are on high alert for a major bleaching event, which is unprecedented during the La Nina weather pattern. This potential bleaching event shows how desperately our Reef needs the government to drastically increase their climate ambition,” said Australian Marine Conservation Society water quality expert Jaimi Webster in a statement.

The Great Barrier Reef – home to 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 varieties of molluscs – began to deteriorate in the 1990s due to the double impact of warming sea water and increased acidity due to the greater presence of CO2 in the atmosphere.

UNESCO plans to reconsider this year whether to include the Great Barrier Reef on its list of World Heritage in Danger. EFE


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