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Great Barrier Reef: The Danger Of Dying

Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef in Australia will be dead within 30 years unless immediate and drastic action is taken.

The prevention of the Great Barrier Reef

In order to prevent the Great Barrier Reef decaying, immediate and drastic action needs to be taken to reduce carbon emissions. The report from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University (JCU) in Queensland indicates that rising temperatures, rising sea levels and coastal pollution are causing the World Heritage site’s corals to bleach and die. Tens of thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide from land are also being absorbed into the ocean, causing “dramatic reduction” in reef-building corals [1].

The report details the most comprehensive investigation of the reef’s health to date. “The Great Barrier Reef is dying,” said Steve Congdon, the report’s lead author and a professor at JCU. “We’re losing coral at a rate of one per cent a year, and that rate is accelerating as temperatures rise and seawater becomes more acidic. Without urgent action to curb carbon emissions, the Great Barrier Reef will be dead within 30 years [2].”

The news follows widespread disappointment from scientists over the federal government’s ‘Declining Species Initiative’, which was announced in December. “It’s disappointing that it’s not the level of response that we’ve seen from the state and the federal governments,” Professor Congdon said.

According to the new report, the biggest threat to the reef is urban development, which has driven up coastal pollution and is having a “direct effect” on coral health [3]. “Climate change and population growth have also contributed to habitat fragmentation and the loss of natural habitats, which is not only a threat to reef biodiversity but also affects the resilience of reef ecosystems to environmental stressors,” the report says. “This fragmentation not only limits recovery from environmental disturbance, but it also hampers the ability of corals to cope with impacts from environmental stresses, such as ocean acidification and increasing water temperatures.”

The threat of fishing

Professor Congdon pointed out, that a further challenge facing the reef was the increase of Australia’s commercial fishers. “There is no doubt that the commercial fishery is responsible for some of the bleaching along the northern Great Barrier Reef,” he said. “In the absence of an effective government fishing moratorium, and despite the fact that some science has shown that the current fishery is unsustainable, the commercial fishery has continued to expand [4].

“Fishing is clearly not the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef – land-based activities like urban development and climate change are far more damaging. But it’s clear that we can’t ignore the long-term consequences of fishing for our reef.”

A spokesman for federal environment minister Greg Hunt said the government was “committed to maintaining the health of the Great Barrier Reef”. “This is why we have banned large-scale commercial fishing and established a Reef 2050 Sustainability Plan to deliver maximum environmental protection for the reef,” the spokesman said. “We have removed dredge spoil from shipping channels and undertaken other positive actions to improve water quality and reduce carbon emissions. We will continue to work with our state and territory counterparts to address other threats to the Reef, including reducing the impact of urban development [5].”


[1] Why the Great Barrier Reef is Dying,

[2] Coral Reefs Could Be Gone in 30 Years,

[3] Coastal Development,

[4] Unsustainable fishing worsens threats to Great Barrier Reef,

[5] Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan – Fact sheet,

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