Tough action needed to stop Reef coral death

Press release - 2 October, 2012
2nd October, 2012: Greenpeace is calling for tough action by the Australian and Queensland Governments after scientists revealed the Great Barrier Reef has lost half its coral cover in 27 years, and may lose half again in the next ten.

“This is alarming new evidence that decisive action is needed to save the Great Barrier Reef,” said Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner Georgina Woods.

The study released today by the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences (AIMS) reports that coral cover on the reef has halved to just 14% over the last 27 years. The rate of loss has increased recently and AIMS predict that as little as 10-5% of the reef may be covered in a decade time. The study shows that the Reef’s ill-health is caused by three factors: tropical cyclones and coral bleaching, which will worsen as ocean temperatures warm, and outbreaks of crown of thorn starfish, fed by water pollution.   

“The Reef is in peril, but Australia has yet to respond to a World Heritage Committee decision requesting we not approve any more development that will impact on its Outstanding Universal Value,” said Ms Woods. “If Australia really wants to get tough on coral bleaching, we have to do more to cut climate pollution by cutting our coal exports.”

In June, the World Heritage Committee asked the government to report back early next year on what is being done to protect the international icon, requesting that damaging coastal development not be permitted.

There are currently proposals for up to nine new coal export terminals to be built along the Great Barrier Reef coast, and adding more coal to the world market and more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

 “It is easy for politicians to stand up and declare their love for the Reef. It’s much harder to match that sentiment with tough action that will really make a difference to the Reef’s future.

“So far, Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke has talked eloquently about his concern for the Reef, but his actions haven’t matched his words,” said Woods. “He has approved a new coal mine and railway that will impact the World Heritage Area, and may very soon approve the first of several large new coal ports for the Reef coast. “

“We will judge the contribution of current Australian Governments to protecting the Great Barrier Reef on their willingness to take decisive action to avert very clear and present threats to its future.”

For further comment contact: Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner Georgina Woods 0437 405 932

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