Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in poor health, report says

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Sydney (dpa) Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is in poor condition and the state of inshore areas along the 2,300-kilometre coral reef are not improving quickly enough, a report released Monday concluded.

The study by Queensland state government found the reef had lost half its coral cover over the past 30 years.

It said the ecosystem faces a great threat from warming, acidifying waters which risk the future of corals, as well as 1,500 species of fish and 3,000 types of molluscs that depend on it for survival.

Pollution from agricultural land continues to damage the reef. Despite efforts to reduce runoff, only 13 per cent of sugar cane producers are using best practice for nutrients and only 30 per cent for pesticides, the report found.

Only 28 per cent of graziers are managing pastures properly to protect the reef.

“There are some trends that are improving but more needs to be done,” scientific panel chairman Roger Shaw told The Guardian Australia.

“We know the pollutant levels exceed the guidelines so we need to bring them back down.”

Queensland’s Environment Minister Steven Miles said there was more bad news than good in the report.

“If one of my kids came home with a report card like this, I’d be a bit disappointed,” Miles told national broadcaster ABC.

“What is most disturbing is these results are far from our targets, and progress to these targets flatlined in the period 2013-14. We saw a stalling of progress.”

Miles said international concern about the state of the reef was justified, even though in July the UN World Heritage Committee decided against listing the Barrier Reef as “in danger,” instead deciding to monitor the reef for the next four years.

Miles is part of Queensland’s Labor government elected in February after promising to protect the Barrier Reef, replacing a pro-business conservative administration.

Last week it was revealed the federal government under Prime Minister Tony Abbott spent 400,000 Australian dollars (287,000 US dollars) lobbying Heritage Committee members not to list the reef as “in danger,” while cutting funding for environment programs and hundreds of staff from the Department of the Environment.

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