Great Barrier Reef Under Threat

Plans to create new ports could harm the world’s largest living structure. A look at Australia’s underwater treasure as its fate hangs in the balance.

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Next month, Australia’s Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Water, Mark Butler will decide whether to allow the expansion of a new port within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, home to the world’s largest living structure, which supports 6 species of marine turtle, 30 species of dolphins and whales, and is an important habitat for the endangered dugong.

The reef lies along the coast of Queensland, a state rich in mineral resources, and the government is proposing new construction in order to enable the transportation of coal at places like Abbot Point. Constructing the coal terminals at Abbot Point involves the dredging of up to 3 million cubic meters of material from the ocean floor to allow access for large ships.

The Great Barrier Reef, the largest living structure in the world, is protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. However, the reef lies along the coast of Queensland, a state rich in mineral resources, and in order to ship these minerals to the world, the government is proposing an expansion of ports along the coast, in places such as Abbot Point, which falls within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. In May, Professor Terry Hughes, an expert on reef science, told an Australian Senate Committee, “It is my opinion, based on the science, that large amounts of dredging will simply hasten the ongoing decline of the Great Barrier Reef.”

Dredging and development could harm a reef that is already ailing. The Great Barrier Reef Report Card 2011, a recently released joint report on the water quality of the reef by the Australian and Queensland state governments downgraded the status of the reef to poor, due to a decline in water quality. Meanwhile, UNESCO, released a report criticizing the Queensland government, which they say has made limited progress when it comes to preventing coastal development that could “negatively impact” the reef.  If UNESCO’s concerns are not addressed by 2014, then the reef could be placed on the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger.

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31 comments
me1952
me1952

It is really so sad that this could be allowed to happen nowdays when we are finding out what  is really happening to our planet.   Seems like there could be  another way to get the product out of the country without going through the reef.   Super highway just for the product to another pick up point that would not hurt the reef and then the tourism dollars would still be coming in.  There is always usually another way.  Would you rather be know as the protectors of the reef than the destroyers.   

balletnutter
balletnutter

This article needs to be fixed. You do not have evidence or facts. You donot have a map of where the dredging will occur. You need to fix this. you are making australians look like the bad guys. we do care about the reef, but we should be able to have a reef and an industry. Can't believe this is supposed to be a legitimate publication.

poulerouge
poulerouge

@TIME @TIMEWorld Even locals disgusted at greed Of coal exporters, ruining a world wonder for short term gain. STUPID!

painuly11
painuly11

@TIME @TIMEWorld Please take some time to see what is going on at Pratap Nagar , Tehri, Uttarakhand in India .

Benjamin Trossman
Benjamin Trossman

Once nature is destoyed it cannot be brought back. When will we ever learn ???

Arch Albert Tesla
Arch Albert Tesla

I would think that the main criteria would be to ensure that the animals have a place to go, if they have to move. Can the surrounding waters support their life? I know sea turtles can migrate over extremely long distances.

Clemons Nana
Clemons Nana

Why would anyone even think of building ports around the Great Barrier Reef ?!?! ... so stupid

Nadir Ahmad Sheikh
Nadir Ahmad Sheikh

& it doesn't help depositing Weapons of Mass Destruction either.

Barbara Jo Wenger
Barbara Jo Wenger

Please Cuba, keep your last Virgin coral reef tourista free. Send films.. Or only allow " paddle boats " with glass bottoms---- that will cull the herd quickly.

RaDen Mas ALie
RaDen Mas ALie

Indonesia beautiful country... More than Australia.. Coming to BUNAKEN ISLAND

Lyle Scout
Lyle Scout

Why don't we value more those things that are irreplaceable?

Jon Tan
Jon Tan

Nevermind - reissued

eva.a
eva.a

Great article on the decline of our great reef, here's to hoping the Australian government reconsiders their detrimental plans.

diver-ian-splat
diver-ian-splat

we are the bad guys - get your head out of the sand and take off the rose coloured glasses  - this port development and the subsequent massive increase in shipping WILL severely impact the reef - evil happens when good men do nothing - balletnutter are you part of the problem or part of the solution ...