Are We Doing Enough to Preserve the Great Barrier Reef?

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A recent draft decision by UNESCO and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) proposes not to list the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area as “in danger”, but it does pose the important decision in international spotlight.

At this stage, the proposal is merely that – a proposal – until the UNESCO Committee’s meeting in Germany this June, when the actual wording and final decision will be finalised. The Australian government has been lobbying intensely to avoid the negative effects that a world heritage ‘in danger’ listing would  have on tourism, however, at a site that attracts two million visitors every year.

The reef's 2,000 kilometres of coastline attracts tourism worth A$6.4 billion annually, with more than two million visitors each year.

The reef’s 2,000 kilometres of coastline attracts tourism worth A$6.4 billion annually, with more than two million visitors each year.

In recent years, UNESCO has expressed concern over the impact of climate change, water pollution, dredging for port facilities and fishing on and near the reef.  Several conservation projects have popped up in response, including the Australian government submitted its Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (LTSP) this past March.

Many are unsatisfied with these current efforts, arguing that we aren’t doing enough to combat the effects of climate change and human interference. Greenpeace campaigner Shani Tager said that the Greenpeace organisation had hoped the reef would be listed as in danger, as it would send a stronger message to the government.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system, composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometres.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system, composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometres.

The decision was good news for Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ), however, with chief executive officer Alex de Waal saying the decision acknowledged Australia had the right environmental credentials to manage the reef’s preservation.

“Tropical North Queensland’s Tourism Industry will continue its vital role in protecting the Great Barrier Reef by participating in conservation initiatives, aiding research and educating the public about the value of this precious environment,” said de Waal.

Sydneysiders snorkeling in Hyde Park fountain in protest of the expansion of coal ports on the Great Barrier Reef.

Sydneysiders snorkeling in Hyde Park fountain in protest of the expansion of coal ports on the Great Barrier Reef.

“We invite visitors to see first-hand just how seriously Tropical North Queensland’s tourism industry takes its role as a guardian of this World Heritage area by visiting the Great Barrier Reef.”

Others also expressed relief that the UNESCO committee had not formally listed the site as ‘in danger’. Dr Nick Graham, a reef expert at James Cook University, said he didn’t think such a move would have helped the conservation of the reef, and Felicity Wishart, reef campaign director for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, thinks the ‘in danger’ listing might have led to complacency.

About Author

Lisa Nikolau

Lisa Nikolau is a freelance writer who has been specializing in travel, culture and current events since 2012. She currently writes on travel and news related topics for YouTravel.com.au.She has traveled to Peru, throughout west and eastern Europe, and has lived in southern Spain.At the moment, Lisa’s favorite pastimes are learning foreign languages, exploring hiking trails in the Olympic National Forest, and ending the day with friends at one of Seattle’s many microbreweries.