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Great Barrier Reef and Australia: UN Says Protect

Jul 01, 2015 01:53 PM EDT
Clownfish on the Great Barrier Reef
The UN's heritage body said on Wednesday that Australia must do more to conserve the 1,430-mile Great Barrier Reef and protect its vast marine resources from dumping.
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

In its list of natural sites across the world to monitor for progress, the U.N.'s heritage body on Wednesday expressed concern about the Great Barrier Reef, but did not designate the site as endangered-yet. The body urged Australia to do more to conserve the reef, which is larger than the United Kingdom combined with Ireland--and has 1,500 types of fish, 411 types of hard coral, 134 species of sharks and rays, and six of the world's seven species of threatened marine turtles.

The decision puts pressure on the Australian government to prevent further destruction to the 1,430-mile reef, and requires progress reports over the coming years, according to this release from the Australian government.

Australia's environment minister, Greg Hunt, told the meeting in Bonn, Germany, that his country had "clearly heard" the committee's concerns and would strive to implement a 35-year conservation plan, according to the Associated Press.

A full ban on dumping in the Great Barrier Reef should take place in a matter of months. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee has voted to maintain pressure on Australia to deliver on its promise to restore the health of the reef, according to a release.

Scientists say the Great Barrier Reef's ecosystem is threatened by climate change, waste water, fishing and coastal developments including the use of nearby ports to export coal, all of which harms valuable corals, turtles and dugongs--a species related to manatees, according to a release.

Environmental group WWF said it wants to see Australia ban dumping in the reef's waters, according to a release.

Overfishing is just one factor that has affected the Great Barrier Reef, scientists at James Cook University, in Australia, said in April in their findings published in the journal Ecosphere. 

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