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UNESCO: Great Barrier Reef Not “In Danger” Enough for Conservation Status

posted: 05/29/15
by: Danny Clemens
Close-up view of a Juvenile Emperor angelfish
thinkstock

In a preliminary decision, the UNESCO World Heritage committee has ruled that Australia's Great Barrier Reef is in peril -- but not enough peril to merit a listing on the committee's List of World Heritage in Danger.

Although the committee describes the overall outlook for the reef as "poor" and expects its condition to deteriorate further, it cites a long-term conservation and sustainability plan from the Australian government as adequate in addressing the issues facing the reef.

UNESCO names "climate change, poor water quality from land-based run off, impacts from coastal development and some remaining impacts of fishing" as the biggest threats to the reef, which lost half of its coral in just three decades.

The Australian government welcomed the committee's preliminary decision: "The world has recognized that Australia has made huge steps in the last 12 months. More to be done, but this is a good result for the reef, it's a good result for Australia," Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt told ABC.

However, environmental activists blasted the decision, and are calling upon the Australian government to further limit coastal development along the reef. "This decision has been described by some as a reprieve for the Reef. It is not a reprieve - it is a big, red flag from UNESCO. Preeminent reef scientists have said we can either have coal expansion or a healthy Reef, but we can't have both. The Australian people have made it clear they want Reef protection not more coal," said Greenpeace's Shani Tager.

A final decision is expected from the committee later this summer.

Click here to read the full statement from UNESCO

Learn more about the coral reef:

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Australia Revealed: Great Barrier Reef
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