Media Release Fight For Our Reef

Great Barrier Reef still facing ‘In Danger’ threat next year  

August 1, 2023
  • Australia must report to UNESCO in February 2024 on further progress to better protect Great Barrier Reef or risk an ‘In Danger’ listing
  • Australia & Queensland must do more on climate and increase emissions targets
  • Both governments must urgently do more to stop tree clearing in Reef catchments and improve water quality

The Australian and Queensland governments have been given a temporary reprieve on a potential ‘In Danger’ listing for the Great Barrier Reef, but they still have a lot of work to do to improve the health and resilience of our greatest natural asset, the Australian Marine Conservation Society said after UNESCO released its latest State of Conservation Report and draft recommendations overnight.

AMCS Great Barrier Reef Campaign Manager Dr Lissa Schindler said: “The Great Barrier Reef faces the fight of its life, a fight that is set to get harder with a predicted El Niño increasing the likelihood of marine heatwaves and coral bleaching.

“Australia’s protection of the Reef has been in the global spotlight for the past decade, under the scrutiny of the global community, including UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee. 

“Our governments have been given six more months to tackle the threats to the Great Barrier Reef, and they must take full advantage of that time for the sake of our Reef, its $6 billion tourism industry and the 64,000 jobs it supports.

“UNESCO made 22 recommendations to the Australian and Queensland governments to help protect the Reef and retain its World Heritage status in their Reactive Mission Report last year, including improving climate policies and emissions targets, improving water quality, stopping tree clearing in Reef catchments and restoring coastal wetlands. 

“UNESCO’s decision to defer the ‘In Danger’ threat until next year reflects the Australian and Queensland governments’ initial progress on those recommendations, but they must now make good on this vote of faith from UNESCO and deliver on all of the recommendations.

“They will have to report to UNESCO in February 2024 and they must be able to demonstrate further, genuine progress in safeguarding the Reef’s future, or they risk an ‘In Danger’ listing. Time is running out for our Reef.  

“The commitment to phase out destructive gillnets is greatly welcomed, but progress on other recommendations has been too slow and more action is needed on climate change, tree clearing and water quality.

“Climate change remains the greatest threat to the Reef. Both the Australian and Queensland governments must urgently cut fossil fuel emissions to protect the Reef to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius – a critical threshold for coral reefs. 

“Tree clearing is still a massive problem for the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Clearing increases sediment runoff into Reef waters, smothering the coral and the seagrasses that marine life such as threatened dugongs depend upon.

“Both governments could also improve Reef water quality by investing in protecting and restoring coastal wetlands. Wetlands filter the water by trapping sediment and treating nutrient runoff from farms. They can also help tackle climate change through their ability to capture and store carbon.”