Great Barrier Reef escapes Unesco ‘in danger’ listing

Sydney, Australia, Aug 1 (EFE).- Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has escaped a recommendation to be added to Unesco’s list of world heritage sites “in danger,” although it remains under “serious threat” from global warming and pollution.

In November last year a UN delegation again recommended the Great Barrier Reef be added to the world heritage “in danger” list and urged ambitious, rapid and sustained action to protect the site.

According to a draft report published on Monday night, Unesco recommended delaying a decision to add the reef to the list, and recognized the Australian authorities’ efforts in the last 12 months to preserve the world’s largest coral reef system off the northeast of the country.

However, it insisted that “urgent and sustained action” is needed to strengthen the long-term resilience of this vast ecosystem, and urged compliance with the 22 recommendations given last year, 10 of them priorities, including phasing out the use of gillnets and eliminating water pollution, which deteriorated due to agricultural runoff, among other things.

The draft recommendation will be considered at the World Heritage Committee’s meeting in Saudi Arabia in September.

Unesco also said it would re-evaluate whether the reef meets the criteria for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger next year during the meeting of the World Heritage Committee.

The draft text highlights “significant progress” made in terms of climate change, water quality and sustainable fishing, said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek in a statement on Tuesday.

WWF-Australia on Tuesday demanded that the government redouble its efforts to protect the Great Barrier Reef, as scientists and experts warn of another mass coral bleaching event in the summer due to El Niño and the climate crisis.

The reef, stretching over 2,300 kilometers and recognized as a World Heritage Site since 1981, is threatened by the climate crisis that has caused six coral bleaching events in its waters since 1998.

Since 2010, the World Heritage Committee has been expressing concern about the status of the reef, but has on two previous occasions (2013, 2021) refrained from classifying it as “in danger,” which could strip it of its World Heritage status and threaten its popularity as a major tourist attraction.

The Great Barrier Reef contributes about AU$6 billion ($4 billion) to the national economy and supports some 64,000 people who work in this protected area covering 348,000 square kilometers.

Home to 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 varieties of mollusks, the Great Barrier Reef began to deteriorate in the 1990s due to the double impact of warming seawater and increased acidity due rising greenhouse gas emissions. EFE


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