World Wildlife Fund (WWF) today issued the following statement from Michele Kuruc, senior vice president for marine conservation, in response to the UN World Heritage Committee’s decision to put Australia on notice to improve protection of the Great Barrier Reef:
“At a time when our oceans are under more stress than ever, we must protect marine resources, not put them in further jeopardy. Australia has a year to change its course of action and fulfill its obligation to safeguard this natural wonder. The Great Barrier Reef belongs not only to Australians but to the international community as well.
As the U.S. and other nations are moving to expand protection of our marine resources, Australia seems headed in the opposite direction. The United Nations has put Australia on notice as the battle over the reef continues. The World Heritage Committee’s firm decision on this issue has the potential to change the tide on the continuous threats to the Reef.
The outdated practice of dumping dredge spoils would threaten the more than 1,500 species of fish, 134 species of sharks and rays, six of the world’s seven species of threatened marine turtles, and many more marine inhabitants.
Steps to protect the reef also have benefits beyond species conservation and, the decision by World Heritage Committee to stand firm is a step towards the future of a healthy reef and the industries it supports, such as tourism and fishing, which contribute approximately $5.4 billion annually to the Australian economy and employ about 63,000 people.”