Last Thursday the Queensland Parliament passed the Great Barrier Reef Protection Amendment Bill. The new law targets reducing the run-off of nutrients, pesticides and sediment from farming land onto the Great Barrier Reef.
A large part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which limits overfishing and tourism. The Reef Outlook Report though, Australia’s Federal Government’s own assessment of the health of the Reef issued in September, identified run-off as being the highest category of risk to its future. Its other major threat is global warming so its survival also depends on building its resilience to the impacts of climate change. Reducing pollution is central to ensuring the Reef can withstand these impacts.
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system, stretching over an area of 344,400 square kilometers (133,000 sq. miles) and is in the running to become one of the “Seven Wonders of Nature.”
Some 30 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises, 6 species of sea turtle, 125 species of shark, about 5000 species of mollusk, 49 species of pipefish, 9 species of seahorse, 17 species of sea snake, more than 1500 species of fish, 330 species of ascidians, 500 species of marine algae and 400 species of corals are all found in this rich ecosystem
Darren Kindleysides, Director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society said:
“The future of the Great Barrier Reef rests upon radically reducing the chemical pollution and sediment run-off that is harming the reef. This global icon for the marine environment and powerhouse of Australia’s tourist economy deserves nothing less. It is heartening to see the Bligh Government act swiftly to deliver their election promise to tackle one of the greatest threats to the Reef.
This legislation throws the reef a lifeline, but it is just the first step. If run-off is to be halved within four years the Government must ensure money is made available to help farmers meet the requirements of this regulation and become stewards of the Great Barrier Reef catchment.
The impacts of climate change risk turning parts of the reef to rubble. We must act quickly to do all we can to build up the reef’s defences to climate change.”
Copyright © 2009 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC