The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) welcomes the Albanese government’s commitment to invest $204 million in the Great Barrier Reef, at a time when our Reef needs all the help it can get.
The budget allocation, announced before Tuesday’s full budget, builds on the Government’s election commitment, and is part of the $1.2 billion investment committed before 2030.
Cherry Muddle, AMCS Reef spokesperson said, “This is a critical decade for our Reef and the 60,000 tourism jobs that rely on it. We welcome this investment in tackling local threats to build our Reef’s resilience to global warming, which has caused four mass bleaching events since 2016.
“Water pollution is a huge issue for our Reef and is impacting inshore Reef habitats including seagrass, which is a vital food source for protected species like dugongs and turtles.
“Mangroves, saltmarshes and seagrass habitats are important carbon sinks. Restoration and recovery of these ecosystems benefits biodiversity and the climate.
“Previous government’s have spent millions of dollars on trying to address water pollution, with little progress to show for it. It is vital this funding is targeted towards the highest risk catchments on a large scale, and delivers real results for the Reef”, she said.
The commitment from the Australian government will also help to reduce threatened species bycatch, with protection for iconic Reef species like dugongs, turtles and dolphins from accidental capture in commercial fisheries.
Simon Miller, Great Barrier Reef fisheries expert said, “Commercial gillnets are a big threat to these species which are easily entangled and can quickly drown. Increased funding must include new Net-Free Zones to provide critical protection from gillnets in areas of high conservation value.”
“Increased funding must also maintain programs to increase fisheries transparency and ensure accurate data on threatened species bycatch is collected. This must support the rollout of cameras on boats in other high risk fisheries such as the trawl fishery.”
“Our reef should be a refuge for dugongs and turtles and we need to see the highest level of protection from fisheries bycatch to help populations recover.”
Global warming is the greatest threat to the survival of the Great Barrier Reef. Investment and actions to tackle local threats must be combined with stronger and faster action on climate, including stopping any new fossil fuel developments.
Burning coal and gas is heating the ocean and causing mass bleaching events.
Together, we can take action to keep temperatures to a 1.5C increase, a critical threshold for the survival of coral reefs.
Investment in local threats and stronger action to tackle the climate crisis are both essential to improve the Reef’s resilience and ensure the Reef remains healthy for generations to come.