The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral system off the coast of Australia, is at a high risk of being included in UNESCO’s ‘World Heritage in Danger’ list, an official said on Friday.
Canberra last year narrowly avoided the UN body putting the site on its endangered list and was ordered to report to the World Heritage committee by December 1 on its ‘Reef 2050’ rescue plan.
The giant ecosystem – a major tourist attraction – is under pressure from farming run-off, development, the crown-of-thorns starfish and climate change, which led to its worst-ever bleaching event this year that devastated swathes of coral.
Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage Steven Miles told ABC news that the latest case of coral bleaching has increased the likelihood that UNESCO will include the Reef on its Red List.
The current bleaching was the worst recorded on the Reef caused by record high water temperatures, Efe news reported.
In the ‘Reef 2050’ report, the government said 32 of the plan’s 151 actions to improve the reef had been achieved. Another 103 were under way, four were delayed, and 12 were not yet due.
“When we came to government we inherited a reef on UNESCO’s endangered watch list,” Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg told Sky News.
“We’ve done everything possible since that time to put in place a plan, to invest huge amounts of resources to improve water quality, to work with the farming community to tackle the crown-of-thorns starfish and to preserve this natural wonder of the world.”
“We have to put the facts on the table,” he added. “The reef is not dead, it’s not dying, it’s resilient, it’s healthy and we’ve made great strides forward in the last few years.”
The government has committed more than Aus $2.0 billion (US $1.5 billion) to protect the reef over the next decade with the update highlighting progress on land management practices to prevent sediment run off, which helps spawn the coral-eating starfish.