Barrier Reef's biggest threat is weak management: report

THE highest risk threats to the future of the Great Barrier Reef are being managed by "some of the weakest" strategies, the latest five-yearly update on the reef's outlook has revealed.

Released on Tuesday by the marine park authority, the latest Outlook report has found the biggest risks, including climate change and port development, were being managed by the weakest programs.

A risk assessment done as part of the 328-page report found the effectiveness of the management of the highest risk threats to the reef was "independently assessed as some of the weakest, especially in terms of outcomes".

Updating the community on the past five years of efforts to "reverse and halt the decline" of the reef, the Outlook report paints a bleak picture.

It found that the overall outlook for the reef was "poor, has worsened since 2009 and is expected to further deteriorate in the future".

"Without promptly reducing threats, there is a serious risk that resilience will not be improved and there will be irreversible declines in the Region's values," the report reads.

Despite the marine park authority trying to quell fears it could not properly manage the impacts of new dredging and dumping projects, the report seems to have found otherwise.

"The overall risk associated with coastal development has increased since 2009 because the implications and extent of several key threats (for example modifications to coastal habitats) are now better understood," the report reads.

"However, the effectiveness of management in relation to coastal development has not improved overall."

It also noted that as proposals to dump dredged material on the seafloor were "projected to increase", the consequences for biodiversity and some heritage values within the footprint of dredging sites were "serious and possibly irreversible".

"There is emerging concern that resuspending of sediment could affect the condition of values over a broad scale and long timeframes, adding further pressure to already declining inshore ecosystems and affecting aesthetic beauty and cultural practices," it reads.

Other efforts to address land-based sediment run-off and climate change have brought mixed results, with "positive gains" on sediment run-off.

But the management response to climate change and the ensuing ocean acidification, "has weakened in relation to context, planning, inputs, processes and outcomes", the report said.

Politicians and the resources industry said on Tuesday the report provided further evidence there was no need for the World Heritage Committee to consider listing the reef as "in danger".

But environmentalists said it only further bolstered the case that more needed to be done, given funding cuts to the marine park authority and concerns about dredging and dumping of sediments.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt said it confirmed the reef still "retains its outstanding universal value and integrity although some aspects are under pressure".

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said it was "exactly what UNESCO has requested" and the yet to be finalised Reef 2050 Plan "needs to convince" the committee that there was a "comprehensive strategy to protect the reef".

However, Australian Marine Conservation Society's Felicity Wishart said it showed that "the time has come" for action, calling on both state and federal governments to "put a stop to industrial scale dredging and dumping".

WWF Australia chief executive Dermot O'Gorman said it was a warning to all Australians that the "only way to build reef resilience is to minimise impacts from catchment pollution, coastal development and fishing".

The report will also go to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for its own assessment.



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