Minister of Environment’s concerns spark reminders of broken policies of the 2050 plan for the Great Barrier Reef
After surveying the northern isles of the Great Barrier Reef, Federal Minister of Environments, Greg Hunt, described one of the worst cases of bleaching since the year 2000. When overseeing the reefs of Lizard Island, Hunt acknowledged as you go north of the tropical mass, “it becomes more severe.”
Hunt’s statement came in correlation with the increased federal funding to the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute, to provide more surveys of the far north section of the island; there have been over 40 surveys conducted within the northern site. Lizard Island, among other northern areas, has been found to have the worst onset of reef degradation, with Hunt outlining, “As we head north, it becomes increasingly prone to bleaching.”
Coral bleaching is a result of multiple ecological factors. According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Outlook Report for the GBA, excessive heat can lead to the death of such marine life, while the WWF maintains their stance against the use of pesticides, pollution, introduced species- such as the infamous ‘King of Star’ starfish- and industrialization.
Although statistics and data are continuing to be ascertained by the Government, the degradation of the Reef continues to be a problem. Concerns have been raised by environmental organizations such as the WWF and Greenpeace Australia, though not for the United Nations, whose World Heritage Committee decided against the notion that the GBR should be marked as “in danger” last May.
The views of the UN, however, have been contradicted by findings in the past 5 years: in August 2011, the government reported one quarter of farmers and 12% of glaziers are using pesticides and practices considered harmful to the reef’s ecosystem. This lies hand in hand with recent findings of rising water temperatures across the Great Barrier Reef along with the growing threat of climate change. According to the Reef Marine Park Authority, average water temperature has risen 0.68 degrees since 1929, and an increase of one degree over four weeks can have a bleaching effect over 90% of the coral population.
In response to such findings, the Government had created the 2050 Long Term Stability Plan in May last year, with climate change threats being a top priority to resolve. The policy seeks to reduce 5 major industrial ports in the Northern area of the reef even though such an action has not yet been ascertained, with plans for the world’s biggest coal port at Abbot point (50km from the Whitsunday Islands) still in effect; this lack of action is also found in the plan’s second focus: banning disposal in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and World Heritage Area of material from capital dredging projects; however, in Cairns, Ports North is proposing to dredge up to 4.4million cubic meters of seafloor to allow access for large cargo and cruise ships.
Although the 2050 plan continues to be set in motion, basic flaws will always be expected and the $40 million in Reef development along with $2 billion in research is hoped to curb concerns over the reef’s state of disrepair. Only time will tell.