Australia has taken decisive action to avoid listing the Great Barrier Reef as a threatened UNESCO World Heritage Site. New commitments to improve water quality and reform in the fisheries sector have been approved by the head of UNESCO, marking an important step toward protecting this incredible ecosystem.
Great Barrier Reef – delicate gem of world heritage under threat
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is one of the most impressive places on Earth. It is listed among the seven natural wonders of the world and is considered the largest coral reef system and the largest living structure on the planet. The Great Barrier Reef occupies an area stretching more than 2,000 kilometers and covering an area of about 344,400 square kilometers, making it visible even from space.
This beautiful Great Barrier Reef, located off the coast of Queensland, consists of more than 3,000 separate reef systems, 760 offshore reefs, 600 tropical islands and about 300 coral reefs. This intricate maze of habitats shelters an extraordinary diversity of marine life, plants and animals. There you can find ancient sea turtles, reef fish, 134 species of sharks and rays, as well as 400 different species of hard and soft corals and an abundance of seaweed.
However, for many years the Great Barrier Reef has been facing serious problems, such as climate change, water quality degradation, and threats from industrial and agricultural development in the region. UNESCO has been sounding the alarm on the Australian reef for many years, and in 2021. The organization’s experts decided to make a recommendation regarding the reef’s inscription on the World Heritage List out of concern for its alarming condition. Now Australian authorities, in response to these warnings, have taken steps to protect this unique ecosystem.
“The Great Barrier Reef is a delicate jewel of world heritage. UNESCO has not ceased to warn the world for many years about the threat of this place irrevocably losing its universal value. We have proposed some concrete measures that constitute a roadmap to solve the problem. I am pleased that the dialogue between our experts and the Australian authorities has resulted in a set of formal commitments.” – Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO.
Australian authorities pledge urgent action to protect reefs
In March 2022. a group of experts from UNESCO and IUCN traveled to the Great Barrier Reef for a thorough study of its condition and dialogue with public sector decision-makers, scientists and NGOs. After a detailed analysis, experts have unanimously confirmed that the Great Barrier Reef is under serious threat from pollution, overfishing and rising water temperatures.
In response to these alarming findings, UNESCO and IUCN stressed the urgent need for corrective action for more effective protection. There is hope that the Great Barrier Reef is siphoning off the original condition. In this connection, ten specific actions were listed that should be taken by Australian authorities. July 2022. UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay met with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to reiterate the urgency of taking action. An intensive discussion ensued between UNESCO experts and Australian authorities to develop an implementation plan for the ten priorities, including costs and timelines.
This process has just been completed, and Australia’s Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, announced in a letter to Audrey Azoulay that the Australian government will urgently take action to protect the Great Barrier Reef, as recommended by UNESCO.
Among the key measures the Australian government has pledged to implement is the creation of no-fishing zones on1/3 of the World Heritage Area by the end of 2024, as well as a complete ban on gillnet fishing by 2027. In addition, Australian authorities have committed to achieving water quality improvement targets by 2025 by significantly reducing pollutant discharges from both agriculture and industry. Also important is the successive setting of more ambitious targets for reducing CO2, in line with global efforts to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. Australia has pledged to reduce emissions by 43% by 2030.
UNESCO will monitor the effectiveness of the implemented activities
UNESCO will closely monitor the effectiveness of the implemented measures. The preservation status of the Great Barrier Reef will be reexamined during the 45th annual survey. of the expanded session of the World Heritage Committee to be held in Saudi Arabia from September 10 to 25. Protecting the Great Barrier Reef is a challenge of global importance, and the world community is eagerly awaiting the results of Australia’s efforts. Cooperation between the government, scientists, NGOs and local communities is crucial to the future of the Great Barrier Reef. By focusing on improving water quality and protecting coral reefs, Australia is showing its determination to ensure the future of this unique ecosystem. The Australian government’s efforts aim to restore the reef to full health by 2050, preserving this important heritage for future generations.