Unesco keeps Great Barrier Reef off ‘in danger’ list

Warsaw: Unesco said on Thursday its World Heritage Committee (WHC) had decided not to place Australia’s Great Barrier Reef on its list of sites “in danger” despite concern over coral bleaching.
A WHC spokeswoman said the Committee, which is meeting in Poland, had made the decision late on Wednesday and expressed “deep concern” over two straight years of mass coral bleaching, which aerial surveys found had affected some two-thirds of the World Heritage-listed site.
The bleaching is the result of warming sea temperatures linked to climate change.
In reaching its decision, the Committee noted Australian attempts to preserve the largest living structure on Earth under its Reef 2050 Plan and did not find it necessary to place the site on its danger list, spokeswoman Anika Paliszewska said, despite fears on whether conservation targets can be met.
WHC lauded “major efforts deployed by all those involved” in the Australian preservation plan but “strongly encourages (Australia) to step up efforts to ensure that medium- and long-term objectives fixed by the Plan are met, which is essential for the global resilience” of the reef.
In a draft report to the WHC last month, Unesco said climate change remained the most significant threat to the future of the coral expanse which stretches for some 2,300 kilometres and criticised Australia for slow progress towards achieving water quality targets. The reef is notably threatened by a proliferation of crown-of-thorns starfish, a coral predator which has a devastating impact on coral reef ecosystems.
The Australian government welcomed Unesco’s decision, saying Canberra will speed up efforts “to help arrest the flow of sediment, nutrients and pesticide into the Reef” and tackle the damaging effects of the starfish outbreaks.
“We agree with the Committee’s assessment that addressing the quality of water entering the Reef remains critically important,” Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said.
Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull’s government “is committed to the preservation and management of the Great Barrier Reef — a commitment made all the more important by the mass coral bleaching,” Frydenberg said.
— AFP