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Queensland's Great Barrier Reef is a complex marine ecosystem which stretches more than 2300 kilometres from Bundaberg to Cape York. It consists of more than 900 islands and 2900 reefs. The Great Barrier Reef is dieing and less than 10% of the coral cover may be alive in 2040. UNESCO is threatening to place it on the World Heritage Area "In Danger" list. This "In Danger" threat was made after sending a Mission to investigate amongst other issues the approval of 3 (now 4) LNG plants on the World Heritage Curtis Island, dredging, dumping and industrialization within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
After a ten year campaign led by the poet and environmentalist Judith Wright, the Queensland and Australian Governments agreed to protect the reef and established the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and an authority to manage it in 1975.
In recognition of its outstanding natural beauty and biological importance, the Great Barrier Reef was declared a World Heritage Area in 1981. For many years now there has been intense scientific and community interest in the Great Barrier Reef but it is a region that is so large that most research is restricted to discreet areas such Townsville-Magnetic Island, Mackay-Whitsunday and Rockhampton-Keppel Bay regions.
In 2010 the Gladstone Port Authority was given state and federal government approval to dredge more than 50 million cubic metres from the seabed of Gladstone Harbour for coal and LNG port facilities. There was little community awareness of the project until the ill-effects of the raising of seagrass meadows, clearing of mangroves and dredging began to be reported by commercial and recreational fishers in the region.
Despite dead and diseased dugong, turtle, sharks and crustaceans continuing to be reported by locals the state government re-opened the harbour and claimed that the marine animals were recovering. Water quality monitoring by the Gladstone Port Authority released over 2 years later proved that port development led to poor water quality that contributed to marine disease and human disease. Reports were hidden that revealed the poor water quality, a leaking bund wall and toxic harmful algal blooms.
Independent scientists have confirmed that marine life in Gladstone harbour continues to suffer. Scientists now believe the lack of environmental controls is contributing to loss of seagrass in particular in inner Gladstone harbour Dumping dredge spoil dump behind the leaky bund wall and near the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has harmed this world heritage area.
The Great Barrier Reef has lost half its coral in the past 27 years according to a study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science. This has been caused by a deadly combination of crown-of-thorns starfish, storm damage and coral bleaching. They warned that coral could halve again within the next 10 yerars, and this pattern would likely continue. We could lose over 90% of coral of the Great Barrier Reef by 2040. For our childrens sake, we must try to protect what is left of the Great Barrier Reef.