Media Release Climate Change

Great Barrier Reef’s “very poor” outlook shows critical need for climate action

August 30, 2019

Australia’s global ocean icon – the Great Barrier Reef – cannot survive another decade of Federal Government inaction on the climate crisis, says the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), after the ecosystem’s official outlook was downgraded to “very poor”.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has published its latest five-yearly Outlook Report for the Reef, concluding for the first time that the long-term outlook for corals and reefs along the 2300 kilometre long system was now “very poor”.

Imogen Zethoven, AMCS director of strategy, said: “We are custodians of a global ocean icon and an international tourism drawcard, but Australia’s lack of ambition on climate change is pushing it to the brink.

“We can turn this around, but only if the Prime Minister cares enough to lead a government that wants to save it.  And saving it, means being a leader here and internationally to bring greenhouse gas emissions down.”

“This is now the third Outlook Report. We’ve had ten years of warnings, ten years of rising greenhouse emissions and ten years watching the Reef heading for a catastrophe.”

In 2009, the first ever Outlook Report delivered an uncompromising warning that climate change had put the ecosystem “at a crossroads”.

In 2014, the second Outlook Report found “the overall outlook for the Great Barrier Reef is poor, has worsened since 2009 and is expected to further deteriorate in the future.”

Zethoven said: “We are seeing the results of Government inaction on climate change. This latest report outlines the big threats from warming oceans and poor water quality. Nobody can say they were not warned.”

Since the last Outlook Report in 2014, the Reef has suffered back-to-back bleaching episodes that killed half the corals and caused an 89 per cent drop in the numbers of baby corals on damaged reefs.

Zethoven added: “Pollution running into the reef’s waters from farming and coastal development continues to be a key threat, and the report is clear on this.  The Queensland government has a Bill in Parliament to help reduce land-based runoff. It needs to be passed and implemented as soon as possible. Cleaner water gives the Reef the resilience it needs.”

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the globe’s most famous World Heritage Areas yet the report finds that “its integrity is challenged and deteriorating”.

The 2019 Outlook Report also found the future for iconic Reef wildlife like sharks, rays, dolphins and dugongs was failing to improve. Pressure from fishing, the report says, remains a key threat.

Dr Leonardo Guida, a fisheries campaigner at AMCS, said: “Our Reef is not just about the corals – for the system to be resilient we need healthy wildlife and habitats.

“But the report shows the threat of fishing and the degradation of habitats remain key threats and that the fortunes for almost all species – including dolphins, dugongs, sharks and rays and some turtles – is failing to improve and in many cases getting worse.”


AMCS media advisor Graham Readfearn 0406 241 081