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Wednesday, January 13, 1999 Published at 13:46 GMT


World: Asia-Pacific

Great Barrier Reef 'dying'

Barrier Reef tourism generates A$1bn

Australian marine scientists are calling for urgent government action to protect the Great Barrier Reef after warning that the world's largest marine park is slowly dying.


ACF director Don Henry: We've very serious problems and the time for action is now
The Australian Conservation Foundation says the reef, which stretches 2,000km along the east coast, is "dying a death of a thousand cuts".

The Federation wants an immediate ban on trawling and all exploration for shale oil mining.

Director Don Henry also called for control of what he described as massive pollution from sugar and cattle industries along the coast.


[ image: Prawn trawlers are removing the seabed]
Prawn trawlers are removing the seabed
The warning follows a government announcement that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park will be extended by some 6,000 square kilometres to include coastal areas considered essential to the reef's survival.

It also announced it would impose a maximum A$1m (US$630,000) fine for illegal prawn trawling to help protect vulnerable marine life.

The Australian Conservation Foundation welcomed the reforms, but said the reef needed more than a one-off response.

"As a nation, the reef gives us A$1bn from tourism. We cannot just sit back and watch it disappear before our eyes," Mr Henry said.

Sea life destroyed

The new measures follow a five-year government study which found that trawling in the Great Barrier Reef park had destroyed more than half of the area's most vulnerable seabed animals.

It discovered that one prawn trawler can remove up to a quarter of the seabed life as it passes over an area, while trawling 13 times over the same area can destroy up to 90% of seabed life.

Damaged seabed life can take up to 20 years to recover.

The government also instructed the park authorities to investigate, and if possible prosecute, up to 50 identified illegal trawlers.





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Internet Links


Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

Australian Conservation Foundation

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