Great Barrier Reef health outlook downgraded to 'very poor'

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The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has downgraded the long-term outlook for the Reef’s ecosystem from “poor” in 2014 to “very poor” in 2019.


The report released today is the third in a series of comprehensive reports on Reef health and management over 10 years.

The report highlights climate change as a significant contributing factor to the decline in the health of the reef and urges global action to reduce the impact on the reef.

Other problems highlighted in the report include habitat loss, degradation, and alteration; and improvements to inshore water quality increasing too slowly, and illegal fishing and poaching.

The report showed that Seagrass meadows remain in poor condition and coral reefs overall have declined to very poor condition.

These declines were identified as a result of extensive coral mortality from bleaching events, cyclones, and an ongoing crown-of-thorns starfish outbreak.


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“The Great Barrier Reef is already a changed system — the effects of climate change are happening now," the report reads 

"The Region’s current long-term outlook is for continued deterioration: this could be altered with urgent and coordinated actions to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“By 2030, or within the next decade, without timely and effective management actions a declining outlook for the Region will continue to manifest.”

“Catchment management actions aimed at reducing pollution in land-based run-off are not working fast enough and a significant step change is needed to accelerate improvement in the quality of water flowing into the Reef.”

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority CEO, Josh Thomas, said the report brings together the latest scientific information on the health of the reef.

“This report brings together scientific information to provide a comprehensive overview of the Reef’s health,” he said.

While the report’s overall outlook is rather bleak, Mr Thomas assured the Reef s still a great attraction for the region and there is time to help improve its condition.

“While the Reef is already experiencing the impacts of climate change, its future is one we can change and are committed to changing,” he said.

“Local, national and global action on the greatest threats facing the Reef is needed now.

“Given the sheer size of the Reef, its health and condition varies across its many habitats.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chief Scientist, Dr David Wachenfeld, said slowing the effects of climate change is the most important challenge to help the reef.

“Gradual sea temperature increase and extremes, such as marine heatwaves, are the most immediate threats to the Reef as a whole and pose the highest risk. Global action on climate change is critical,” he said.

“Mitigating threats like climate change and poor water quality, coupled with resilience-based management, are essential to boosting Reef health so it can recover from major disturbances.”

The report from the Marine Park Authority coincides with the Reef Water Quality Report Card 2017 and 2018 which assesses the water that flows in the Marine Park.

The Queensland and Federal Governments today released the report card jointly.

The report card shows the quality of water flowing into the reef from the Queensland Coast as poor overall.

“Sediment continues to be an area for improvement for the Burdekin and dissolved inorganic nitrogen another for the Wet Tropics,” Federal Environment minister Susan Ley said.

The Federal and Queensland Governments are investing over $2 billion in the coming years to address the factors impacting the health of the reef.

These plans include ramping up compliance in no-take areas to tackling the outbreak of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish.

The full Outlook Report is available on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority website

The Water Quality Report Card is available to be viewed on the Reef Plan Website.


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