Australia must deliver effective and sustained protection" of the reef from threats including reckless industrialization and pollution, UNESCO said today.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee has voted to maintain pressure on Australia to deliver on its promise to restore the health of the Great Barrier Reef. The Australian government is required to provide a first report on progress in just 18 months.
The committee welcomed Australia's "commitment to establish a permanent ban on dumping of dredged material from all capital dredging projects within the property" and to restrict new megaport expansions in and near the reef. Following this decision, WWF expects a full ban on dumping in the reef's World Heritage waters to come into force within months.
"This vote by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee demonstrates that green advocacy works: the Australian government is now effectively on probation over the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. For this amazing place to flourish again, governments and businesses alike have a crucial role to play. We will be watching progress and continue to protect this and other natural World Heritage sites," said David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of WWF-UK.
On Sunday, WWF delivered signatures from people in 177 countries to the UNESCO committee asking it to firmly defend our shared natural heritage when it comes under threat.
"Australia has promised to prioritize the health of the reef over damaging activities like dumping dredge spoil. UNESCO will be watching to ensure that the condition of the reef improves in coming years, as will the 550,000 WWF campaign supporters and millions of people worldwide who are deeply concerned and want to see a stop to industrial destruction of the Great Barrier Reef," said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.
In its final reef decision, the committee expressed continued concern that habitats and wildlife populations have declined, and that the reef's overall outlook is poor. The committee emphasized that major long-term threats such as water pollution and climate change remain and require action.
Australia is requested to "rigorously implement all of its commitments... in order to halt the current documented declines," the committee decision says. The country must report back to UNESCO on its progress by December of next year and again three years later in order to demonstrate "effective and sustained protection" of the reef.
"Water pollution and climate change remain major threats to the health of the Great Barrier Reef, and WWF will work tirelessly to ensure that action is taken to preserve and repair this remarkable marine ecosystem," said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O'Gorman. "Today's World Heritage decision will keep the pressure on Australia to turn promises into real action and results. We must bring back the corals, the turtles, the dugongs - the natural wonders of the reef."
UK: Rebecca Pain, firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 (0)1483 412303, or +44 (0)7971 149666
Bonn, Germany: Kate Rayson, email@example.com, +61 439 959 034
Switzerland: Alona Rivord, firstname.lastname@example.org, +41 79 959 1963.
Australia: Mark Symons, email@example.com, +61 400 985 571.
Images of the Great Barrier Reef for media use are available here: https://photos.panda.org/gpn/external?albumId=4625
Images and videos of WWF's petition hand-in event in Bonn are also available.
Notes to Editors
In reported quotes, Queensland's environment minister, Steven Miles, said that government moves to protect the Great Barrier Reef would not have occurred but for green groups "holding governments to account".
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
Visit reef.panda.org for additional resources and follow us @WWF_media.