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Great Barrier Reef Plan Not Good Enough, Conservationists Say

Sep 16, 2014 01:37 PM EDT

Australia announced Monday its 35-year plan to save the Great Barrier Reef, which is under threat as a result of climate change, but some conservationists are saying that this is not good enough.

One of the seven wonders of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef is home to the world's largest collection of coral reefs, with 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc, according to UNESCO's World Heritage Centre.

However, over the past 30 years this natural wonder has lost over half of its coral cover due to rising sea temperatures, water pollution and coastal development. If steps aren't taken to protect this beautiful landmark, UNESCO warns it will put the site on its World Heritage "in danger" list in 2015.

So, the Australian government drafted the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan, which will take various measures to combat the numerous threats to the reef, including improving management and monitoring procedures. It also will ban, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports, future port developments in the Fitzroy Delta, Keppel Bay and North Curtis Island near Rockhampton in Queensland state - areas that harbor important marine life, according to environmentalists.

"Maintaining and protecting this iconic World Heritage Area, while considering the needs for long-term sustainable development, is a critical priority," Environment Minister Greg Hunt said in a press release.

But this recovery plan, in the eyes of conservationists like Felicity Wishart, Great Barrier Reef campaign director for Australian Marine Conservation Society, is still lacking in certain key areas.

"It certainly missed a key opportunity," Wishart told The Wall Street Journal. "We know that the reef is in serious decline. UNESCO is also looking to this plan to be the thing that really turns the reef around, and frankly, the government has failed in its draft to do that. For an action plan, there's not a lot of action."

Wishart cites dredging and dumping in marine park waters as an issue that needs better restrictions, as these contain harmful toxins that can smother corals and seagrasses, according to the AFP.

Given the amount of criticism, the 2050 plan is now open for consultation.

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