The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has released a decision concerning the very fragile listing of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Morning News USA reported on Tuesday that the reef is on the verge of being demoted to an endangered site. On Thursday, the world body decided the 2,300km-long ecosystem will not be placed on its “in-danger” list. At least not yet.
The small victory spared Australia from international embarrassment. It was also a proof that the country worked hard not to lose that distinction.
But this doesn’t mean Australia has totally gotten rid of the pressure from the UNESCO. Dermot O’Gorman of the WWF said the decision effectively “places Australia on probation.” Professor Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Studies at James Cook University, told Business Insider that the pressure for Australia to improve its protection of the Reef has “certainly not gone away.”
The committee says the overall outlook for the reef remains poor due to threats of pollution and climate change, among others.
“Climate change, poor water quality, and impacts from coastal development are major threats to the property’s health,” the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO said.
But while the global body lauded Australia for its aggressive conservation plan, it gave the country a maximum of five years to stop the further deterioration of the natural icon. Or otherwise, face the inherent change of listing.
Maria Böhmer, World Heritage Committee chairwoman, said their decision doesn’t end the debate on the fate of the Great Barrier Reef, but rather a catalyst that will turn the focus on Australia. She said the committee definitely wants to see how the country will strive to implement its conservation plan to save the reef. She said she is confident Australia will push its plans with “the greatest intensity.”
At the Bonn talks, Australia announced releasing an additional A$8 million for reef monitoring. “The plan now needs to translate into action, backed by adequate finance and rigorous science,” Tim Badman of the International Union for Conservation of Nature said.
Dr Steven Miles, Minister for the Great Barrier Reef, said the state and federal governments will not stop on the small victory.
“Tourists can rest assured that the reef will continue to be one of the best managed marine areas in the world and I encourage them to come and visit this living wonder.”