Australia’s Great Barrier Reef extends for more than 2 kilometers, covering an approximate area of 340 000 square kilometers, making it the largest coral reef system in the world. Designated as a World Heritage Site since 1981, is threatened by the climate crisis that has caused six coral bleaching events in its waters since 1998.
The magnificent reef is home to thousands of marine species, hosting over 411 hard coral species and 1,500 types of fish. However, for several years, it has faced significant threats from pollution and climate change. The warming ocean has caused coral bleaching, and increased sediment, contaminants and nutrients have made their way into the waters of the Coral Sea from industrial, agricultural, and urban runoff. Additionally, coastal development and overfishing also threaten the UNESCO World Heritage Area.
Discover more about Australia’s greatest natural wonder, the Great Barrier Reef.
In a recent meeting, in the last week, the UNESCO heritage committee stopped short of listing Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as a site that is “in danger” but warned the world’s biggest coral reef ecosystem remained under “serious threat” from pollution and the warming of oceans.
This decision was based on the UN monitoring mission to Queensland in March 2022, where UNESCO acknowledged positive steps taken by the Australian government to protect the reef. However, UNESCO put Australia on notice, as it recommended the government submit a progress report in February, before the reef is re-listed as “in danger” in 2024.
The Great Barrier Reef brings in about $4 billion to the Australian economy and supports more than 60,000 jobs, so the country would prefer it not be on the endangered list. Being on the list could mean losing its world heritage status, possibly affecting tourist visits to the site.
Australia’s Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, acknowledged that UNESCO’s draft decision does not put the reef “on a secure footing” and that more action is needed to keep it off the endangered species list. The draft decision cites “significant progress” being made on climate change, water quality, and sustainable fishing – all putting the reef on a stronger and more sustainable path.” stated Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Jaynes, C. H.(2023). Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Under ‘Serious Threat,’ but Stays Off UNESCO’s ‘In Danger’ List. URL: https://www.ecowatch.com/great-barrier-reef-unesco-endangered.html [Accessed in August 2023]
Reuters (2023). Australia’s Great Barrier Reef stays off UNESCO danger list, still under ‘serious threat’. URL: https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/australias-great-barrier-reef-off-unesco-danger-list-still-under-serious-threat-2023-08-01/ [Accessed in August 2023]
The Guardian (2023). Unesco recommends against Great Barrier Reef ‘in danger’ listing but Australia warned more action needed. URL: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/aug/01/climate-crisis-great-barrier-reef-unesco-australia [Accessed in August 2023]