Unesco votes not to put Australia's Great Barrier Reef on world 'danger list'

2 July 2015• Written by Sophia Heath

The United Nations heritage body Unesco has voted not to place the Great Barrier Reef onto the World Heritage danger list. The decision has been welcomed by the Australian government, but conservation groups have reiterated that the reef is "not safe" from environmental dangers.

Dr Simon Harding, Head of Conservation at Blue Marine Foundation, said: "The recent decision by UNESCO to not put the Great Barrier Reef on to the list of World Heritage Sites that are in danger has been welcomed by the Australian Government. However, Australia must now keep to its agreed commitments of reducing land-based pollution and banning dumping of coal mine waste within the designated Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. In addition, the long-term effects of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef are still a major threat to reef’s ecosystems. The Australian Government’s decision to continue large-scale coal mining in Queensland will contribute to climate change further compromising the health of this and other coral reefs around the world."

The decision was widely anticipated following a UNESCO draft report that was released in May that welcomed Australia’s efforts to tackle water pollution and ban the dumping of dredge spoil from ports in the reef’s waters. Yesterday (1 July) 21 nations on Unesco’s world heritage committee unanimously endorsed the draft. Despite the decision, Unesco warned that the reef was still facing “major threats”.

In March 2015, Australia submitted a 35-year plan outlining future conservation for the reef. The UNESCO draft report has reiterated that Australia must implement the plan, which aims to reduce pollution by 80 per cent by 2025, and that the organisation will continue to check on its progress. The Australian government will be required to give a progress report on 1 December 2016.

In September 2014, an extensive report warned that the reef "is expected to further deteriorate in the future" and named climate change, extreme weather, and pollution from industry as the main concerns. These issues are some of the of the biggest threats facings the world's oceans.

Greg Hunt, the federal environment minister, told press the decision demonstrates that Australia is a “role model to the world” in how to protect reefs.

“It’s really an astonishing and outstanding outcome for Australia and what it means is that the physical work is now being held up to the rest of the world for dealing with complex challenges facing the great coral reefs of the globe,” Hunt said.

Several environmental charities have reiterated concerns about the reefs future. Greenpeace released a statement after the initial draft report saying that it showed that the Great Barrier Reef “is not fine and not safe”.

This year Boat International has announced that is has teamed up with ocean conservation charity Blue Marine Foundation to launch The Ocean Awards, to celebrate those who saving the ocean. The awards are split into ten categories and the winners will be announced in January’s edition of Boat International.

To make a nomination, email theoceanawards@bluemarinefoundation.com. Nominations close July 17.

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