Great Barrier Reef 'in danger' and could lose World Heritage status: WWF

Featured Oceania World - February 1st, 2013

Australia insisted Friday that it was “absolutely committed” to protecting the Great Barrier Reef following reports that the government had not done enough to preserve the marine sanctuary which is “in danger”.

Environment Minister Tony Burke vowed to stop any coal port or shipping developments that would cause “unacceptable” damage to the reef in an effort to convince the United Nations to preserve its world heritage status, AFP reports.

“We have made substantial progress in addressing the recommendations made by the World Heritage Committee,” Burke said.

Canberra had already invested 200 million Australian dollars ($208 million) in a “Reef Rescue” programme and pledged to curb developments in the area amid the gas and mining boom.

The WWF, along with the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said Australia’s efforts lacked enough progress, prompting UNESCO to set a deadline for Canberra to carry out a decisive action.

“The dismal scores highlight our grave concerns that UNESCO is going to have no option but to recommend the reef be put on its unenviable ‘List of World Heritage in Danger’ – the list of shame,” WWF campaign director Richard Leck said.

“The impact of that would felt right throughout Queensland’s economy, especially its 6.0 billion Australian dollar reef tourism industry. Australia’s reputation is on the line”.