Australia Announces Plan to Save the Great Barrier Reef

Critics say it falls far short of what's needed

The 35-year plan includes measures to protect native species, improve coastal habitats, and clean up the water. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Australian government revealed a 35-year plan on Monday to guide the management and rehabilitation of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan was developed to help prevent the Great Barrier Reef from being reclassified by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage site “in danger,” according to a report by the New York Times. UNESCO named the Great Barrier Reef a World Heritage site in 1981. 

Conservationists say the plan is insufficient. “The plan does not deliver bold, concrete actions that scientists have told us we need to turn around the future of the reef,” WWF-Australia reef campaigner Louise Matthiesson told the Times.

Reef 2050 includes a list of proposals that will protect native species such as dugongs and turtles, control invasive species such as the crown-of-thorns starfish, and deal with poor water quality. Water quality in the reef suffered after the Australian government signed off on dredged mud dumps that left nearly 8 million gallons of sediment in the water as part of a coal port development. In attempts to reverse that damage, the government founded the Reef Trust and donated $40 million in partnership with Reef 2050. The funds will cover coastal habitat improvement and water cleanup.

Still, critics say the plan, which is not yet finalized and open to public comment, needs to go much further. “If the reef were a sinking ship, it feels like they are trying to bail it out with a thimble,” Australian Marine Conservation Society campaign manager Felicity Wishart said in a report from the Brisbane Times.

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