POLITICS

The Great Barrier Reef Gets A 'D' ... Again

The world's largest coral reef system remains in poor health

20/10/2016 12:43 PM AEDT | Updated 20/10/2016 12:43 PM AEDT
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Scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef gets an 'A' though.

CANBERRA -- The latest report card on the health of the Great Barrier Reef shows water quality of the world heritage site close to shore has been given a "D" for poor, for the fifth year in a row, and it states efforts need to be sped up to meet "ambitious targets".

The report - which can be found here - also found the health of the coral has marginally improved, but the report card for the world's largest coral reef system covers the period up to June 2015, meaning it does not factor in the worst mass coral bleaching event on record in the summer of 2015-16.

It did, however, factor in climate change as the "most serious threat to the Great Barrier Reef" and that two severe tropical cyclones, Marcia (category 5) and Nathan (category 4), hit the reef during 2014-15.



The 2,300 kilometre-long ecosystem, which was almost listed in 2014 by UNESCO as being "in danger", is under threat from pollutants such as nutrients, pesticides and sediment from catchment runoff.

Released by the Federal and Queensland Governments, the report card has given the Great Barrier Reef an ecosystem-wide grade of 'E', or very poor, for river catchments, "D", or poor, for the management of grazing lands and 'D', or poor, for sugarcane and grain farm practice.

It states more efficient fertiliser use is needed and there's been continued, but slow progress towards sediment and pesticide reduction targets.

Nutrient loads, such as nitrogen, also contributed to the current outbreak of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish.

The report card found only 16 per cent of sugar-cane growers were using recommended best-practice procedures for nutrients (up 3 per cent in a year) and only 32 percent for pesticides (up 2 percent in a year).

The report card has given an "E", or very poor grade, for efforts to reduce dissolved inorganic nitrogen loads and a moderate "C" for progress in reducing particulate nitrogen, a "C" for reducing sediment, a "C" in reducing toxic pesticides and a very good "A" in reducing particulate phosphorus.

Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said there have been some improvements.

"Almost half the horticulture and grains land across the Great Barrier Reef catchments is already managed using best management practice systems, with more work needed in sugarcane and grazing management," he said.

"Early outcomes for innovative trials in the Wet Tropics through the Reef Trust reverse auctions show 86 tonnes less nitrogen was applied in the Wet Tropics in 2015-16."

The report card states the results show the need to "accelerate the rate of change" and "drive innovation" to meet "ambitious targets."

The Australian and Queensland governments' have provided $2 billion through the Reef 2050 Plan to improve the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

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