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Potential Downgrade of Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Status

todayJune 24, 2021 2

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Deteriorating health status puts the Great Barrier Reef’s UNESCO World Heritage Site status in jeopardy. Despite this, Australia rejects recommendations by the United Nations to consider the Reef coral “in danger”.

What We Know:

  • The Great Barrier Reef received World Heritage status in 1981, an honor designating it invaluable to humanity for its cultural, historical, and scientific contributions. There are 1007 other places across the globe deemed worthy of this status, including the Grand Canyon, Egyptian pyramids, and Greece’s Acropolis.
  • The reef is home to 1,625 species of fish, more than 600 species of coral, 133 shark and ray species, and 30 species of whales and dolphins, among many others. 25 percent of all known aquatic species reside in the Great Barrier Reef.
  • On Tuesday, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) committee warned that urgent protection is needed to preserve remaining coral following three major coral bleaching events. Coral bleaching is caused by changing water temperatures and heat stress.

Dead coral found at lady Elliot island. In the quest to save the Great Barrier Reef, researchers, farmers and business owners are looking for ways to reduce the effects of climate change.
JONAS GRATZER/LIGHTROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES

  • A UN report claims the Australian government neglects reef health, especially in terms of negating climate change effects. The report found that the Australian government failed to meet water quality and land management targets as well as greenhouse gas reduction goals. According to the report, “The long-term outlook for the ecosystem of the property has further deteriorated from poor to very poor,” with deterioration that “has been more rapid and widespread than was previously evident.”
  • Australia’s Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley and Foreign Minister Marise Payne oppose UN claims, stating that $3 billion is allocated to protect the reef. Ley explains, “The Great Barrier Reef is the best-managed reef in the world and this draft recommendation has been made without examining the Reef first hand and without the latest information.”
  • Tourism in Australia relies heavily on visitations to the Reef, bringing in $6.4 billion annually and 64,000 jobs. Any changes to Reef designations could harm the travel industry fueled by snorkelers and beachgoers.

Next month at UNESCO’s meeting in China, the committee will vote on continuing or revoking the Great Barrier Reef’s World Heritage status.

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todayJune 24, 2021 2

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