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Analysis and Comment (49)

The latest report on the health of the Great Barrier Reef shows the reef condition is “poor” The latest report on the health of the Great Barrier Reef shows the reef condition is “poor” Scientific Editor/Flickr

Reef condition is ‘poor’, and probably worse than healthcheck suggests

The latest healthcheck of the Great Barrier Reef shows the overall outlook is “poor”, and getting worse. According to the Outlook Report produced by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, climate…
Fishing of potato rock cod is totally banned in Queensland waters. Better regulation might avoid similar bans for other species. Fishing of potato rock cod is totally banned in Queensland waters. Better regulation might avoid similar bans for other species. Mark Priest

How ecosystems can keep their fish, and we can eat them too

Tighter bag limits for fishing could be the key to ocean conservation, according to new research showing that limiting fishing across entire regions can offer better protection than using marine reserves…
The Ranger uranium mine, inside the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. The Ranger uranium mine, inside the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. AAP Image/Tara Ravens

Queensland lifts its uranium ban, but is the price worth the cost?

As of today, Queensland has lifted a 32-year ban on uranium mining. That decision was taken within months of the 2012 state election, despite Premier Campbell Newman’s pre-election promise not to restart…
About 5% of the Tasmanian Wilderness could delisted as a World Heritage area, if an Australian government request wins international approval. About 5% of the Tasmanian Wilderness could delisted as a World Heritage area, if an Australian government request wins international approval. Ta Ann Truths/Flickr

Australia sends mixed messages on iconic World Heritage areas

This week, experts will debate the future of two of Australia’s World Heritage areas, the Tasmanian Wilderness and the Great Barrier Reef, at a meeting in Doha, Qatar. The world will be watching, as it…
The Reef Trust discussion paper suggests a focus on eradicating crown-of-thorns and water quality - no mention of climate change or port developments. The Reef Trust discussion paper suggests a focus on eradicating crown-of-thorns and water quality - no mention of climate change or port developments. John Turnbull/Flickr

The $40 million Reef Trust is a good start, but it could be better

In the midst of harsh cuts to Great Barrier Reef management and research, including cuts to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the Department of…
We need to play our cards right if Australia’s marine environments are to keep us afloat. We need to play our cards right if Australia’s marine environments are to keep us afloat. Saspotato/Flickr

Marine science: challenges for a growing ‘blue economy’

AUSTRALIA 2025: How will science address the challenges of the future? In collaboration with Australia’s chief scientist Ian Chubb, we’re asking how each science discipline will contribute to Australia…
The new budget has served up a big hit to Australia’s environment. The new budget has served up a big hit to Australia’s environment. Anton Balazh/Shutterstock

Litany of deep cuts for environmental programs

Budgets are often framed as give and take. But in the case of the environment, the government is taking large amounts of money in cuts, while giving little back beyond funding the Direct Action climate…
A report criticising government oversight of a major Gladstone harbour dredging project has warned against cutting resources for environmental monitoring and compliance. A report criticising government oversight of a major Gladstone harbour dredging project has warned against cutting resources for environmental monitoring and compliance. Flickr/GreensMPs

Environmental job cuts risk a repeat of Gladstone failures

A long-awaited report on environmental failures at the biggest port along the Great Barrier Reef coastline and today’s federal budget may not seem connected – but if you read the report, it’s clear just…
The Queensland government has called for a boycott of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream over their support for WWF’s save the reef campaign. The Queensland government has called for a boycott of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream over their support for WWF’s save the reef campaign. Alpha/Flickr

Ben & Jerry’s reef campaign shows that green groups are vital for democracy

US-based ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s recently caused a stir by siding with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Australian Marine Conservation Society’s Fight for the Reef campaign. Queensland environment…
The United Nations is concerned about port expansions and dredging disposal in the Great Barrier Reef – but that bigger picture is ignored in new ‘Reef Facts’ commercials. The United Nations is concerned about port expansions and dredging disposal in the Great Barrier Reef – but that bigger picture is ignored in new ‘Reef Facts’ commercials. Image courtesy NASA/GSFC/LaRC/JPL, MISR Team

Great Barrier Reef ‘facts’ TV ads ignore dredge dumping risks

New “Reef Facts” commercials are currently airing during prime-time television shows in Australia, purporting to tell the “facts” about the environmental health of the Great Barrier Reef. It comes amid…
Bigger picture: the Great Barrier Reef seen from the Landsat satellite. Bigger picture: the Great Barrier Reef seen from the Landsat satellite. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Wikimedia Commons

The battle over Abbot Point risks losing the Great Barrier Reef war

“Save the reef” has become a popular catch-cry among many environment groups, with Greenpeace’s Great Barrier Reef website shared more than 125,000 times on social media to date. It and many similar campaigns…
Coral bleaching is one of the more obvious signs the Great Barrier Reef is in trouble. Coral bleaching is one of the more obvious signs the Great Barrier Reef is in trouble. mattk1979/Flickr

Is Australia shooting itself in the foot with reef port expansions?

With the approval of dredging as part of the Abbot Point port expansion, Australia has given the green light to an increase in coal exports. While opposition to the plan has focused primarily on the effects…
Protesters are furious at recent decisions over the Great Barrier Reef, but how much power does its official guardian have? Protesters are furious at recent decisions over the Great Barrier Reef, but how much power does its official guardian have? AAP Image/Supplied by Greenpeace

Reef authority caught between the devil and the deep blue sea

Seeing the fierce debate sparked by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority chairman’s recent article on The Conversation about the Abbot Point coal port expansion, I can sympathise with the dilemma…
Already operating as a coal port, the disposal of dredge material from expanding Abbot Point is now the subject of a legal challenge. Already operating as a coal port, the disposal of dredge material from expanding Abbot Point is now the subject of a legal challenge. GBRMPA

Let’s dump Great Barrier Reef dredging myths: authority chief

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s recent decision to allow 3 million cubic metres of dredge material to be disposed of 25 kilometres off Abbot Point in north Queensland has attracted passionate…
Greg Hunt, and all environment ministers past and future, could be protected from legal challenge over mining approvals. Greg Hunt, and all environment ministers past and future, could be protected from legal challenge over mining approvals. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Australia’s environment minister could soon be above the law

Earlier this month, a Senate inquiry paved the way for the Parliament to give Environment Minister Greg Hunt legal immunity against future legal challenges to his decisions on mining projects. If it passes…
No matter how well a country like New Zealand protects its borders, introduced species will sneak in. No matter how well a country like New Zealand protects its borders, introduced species will sneak in. Queensland University of Technology

A hitchhiker’s ride to New Zealand: alien voyages by sea and air

Historically, geographically, culturally – there are many points of comparison between Australia and its neighbour to the east, New Zealand. But there are notable differences. This week, The Conversation…
Fragile beauty: the Great Barrier Reef. Fragile beauty: the Great Barrier Reef. Flickr/Paul D'Ambra - Australia

Australia courting danger with the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has announced it will allow the dumping of three million cubic metres of dredge spoil from the Abbot Point port redevelopment within the marine park’s boundaries…
Dredging at Abbot Point will create three million cubic metres of spoil. Dredging at Abbot Point will create three million cubic metres of spoil. AAP

There is no need to dump Abbot Point’s dredge spoil on the reef

By the end of this week we will know whether the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will allow dredge spoil from the Abbot Point port redevelopment to be dumped within the park’s boundaries. The…
Beautiful one day … a quarry the next? Beautiful one day … a quarry the next? Underwater Earth / Catlin Seaview Survey - www.catlinseaviewsurvey.com

Great Barrier Reef decision is a U-turn to an inglorious past

Few of us remember that the declaration of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and its subsequent World Heritage status was born out a 12-year popular struggle to prevent the most wondrous coral reef in…
A scuba diving tourist feeds a giant potato cod in the Great Barrier Reef. A scuba diving tourist feeds a giant potato cod in the Great Barrier Reef. Pete Niesen/Shutterstock.com

Dredging set to swamp decades of Great Barrier Reef protection

After decades of work, A$200 million in taxpayer funding and even more from farmers' pockets, we finally have a rare good news story to tell about the Great Barrier Reef. Thanks to an extraordinary effort…
Port developments shouldn’t be assessed individually. Port developments shouldn’t be assessed individually. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

It all adds up: port development on the Great Barrier Reef

The Queensland and Australian government’s draft strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area has been released today. The strategic assessment was prompted by the 2012 UNESCO-IUCN…
Crown of Thorns is one threat on the reef, but it’s not the only threat. Crown of Thorns is one threat on the reef, but it’s not the only threat. Flickr/Nemo's great uncle

Should offsets fund the Coalition’s reef plan?

On Monday, the Coalition announced its plan for the Great Barrier Reef, including a A$40m trust-fund to target threats to the Reef such as Crown of Thorns starfish and runoff from agriculture. The promises…
Calling something protected isn’t enough to protect it. Calling something protected isn’t enough to protect it. AAP Image/Australian Institute for Marine Science

Governments are not protecting the Great Barrier Reef

Announcements last week of the escalating damage to the Great Barrier Reef confirm Australia’s most famous and intensely managed Marine Protected Area has not been properly protected. UNESCO’s recent review…
Our environment is an important part of Australia’s national identity. Our environment is an important part of Australia’s national identity. Shawn Smith

Using national pride to protect our environment

Australia’s natural resources are reaching a crisis point as they struggle to support and sustain our lifestyles. But while degradation of these systems continues, research suggests the level of concern…
The poor condition of the Reef means we have to find better ways to improve water quality. The poor condition of the Reef means we have to find better ways to improve water quality. Flickr/FarbenfroheWunderwelt

Great Barrier Reef report in: time to make polluters pay

Last week, the Australian and Queensland governments released a reef report card which found the overall condition of the reef in 2010-2011 was “poor”. This was compared to its “moderate” condition in…
World Heritage won’t mean anything if nothing’s done about climate change. World Heritage won’t mean anything if nothing’s done about climate change. Flickr/350.org

A reprieve, but the Great Barrier Reef remains on death row

The Great Barrier Reef may have been spared the indignity of being listed as a World Heritage Area “in danger” this week, but the Reef’s woes are just beginning. There are 962 properties on the world heritage…
Better land management and reforestation will protect the coral reefs of Madagascar from the damage caused by sedimentation. Better land management and reforestation will protect the coral reefs of Madagascar from the damage caused by sedimentation. Flickr/Frontierofficial

Manage the land to protect the reefs

The world’s coral reefs are both beautiful and rich in biodiversity, supporting a number of marine species. However the negative effects of climate change and human activity have begun to take their toll…
Are there viable investment alternatives to funding coal and energy projects in the Great Barrier Reef region? Are there viable investment alternatives to funding coal and energy projects in the Great Barrier Reef region? AAP

Can banks make a profit by investing in the Great Barrier Reef?

Earlier this month, Australia’s Big Four banks copped a serve over their support of the coal and gas extraction industries, focusing attention on the ways large banks' investment decisions can put the…
Will the Great Barrier Reef be declared ‘In Danger’? We’ll have to wait until next year to find out. Will the Great Barrier Reef be declared ‘In Danger’? We’ll have to wait until next year to find out. AAP Image/Catlin Seaview Survey

UNESCO still worried about the Great Barrier Reef

UNESCO, the body that lists world heritage areas, continues to express extreme disquiet about the state of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. But it has now postponed to February 2014 consideration…
Queensland’s proposed port developments threaten the state’s important northern wetlands, the reef’s first line of defence. Queensland’s proposed port developments threaten the state’s important northern wetlands, the reef’s first line of defence. Rex Boggs

Without wetlands, what will protect the Great Barrier Reef?

UNESCO has released its latest report on the state of the Great Barrier Reef, and has once again raised concerns about excessive port development along the coast, and the state of water quality around…
Incidents of major agricultural run-off, like the recent Queensland floods, certainly affect Great Barrier Reef water quality, but systems are in place to reduce their effect. Incidents of major agricultural run-off, like the recent Queensland floods, certainly affect Great Barrier Reef water quality, but systems are in place to reduce their effect. AAP Image/Twitter, ISS, Chris Hadfield

Worried about Great Barrier Reef water pollution? Look at mining, not agriculture

The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is both a national marine park and a World Heritage Area. But next to the reef, a catchment of 400,000km2 is almost completely developed for agriculture, predominantly beef…
Neither the Federal nor the Queensland Governments are doing what’s required to save the Great Barrier Reef. Neither the Federal nor the Queensland Governments are doing what’s required to save the Great Barrier Reef. AAP Image/Greenpeace, Dean Sewell

Grief of Great Barrier Reef: UNESCO should declare heritage site in danger

The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is clearly in danger. But will UNESCO bite the bullet and officially declare it so? UNESCO acknowledges that the property is iconic. It is the world’s largest…
UNESCO’s warning has done little to turn Australia’s coal development around. UNESCO’s warning has done little to turn Australia’s coal development around. Peter Asquith

Australia coy in report on heritage status of Great Barrier Reef

Australia has delivered an updated report on the state of conservation in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) that tip-toes around the politically charged issue of constraining major port expansions on the Queensland…
Do you value this? The Energy White Paper doesn’t. Do you value this? The Energy White Paper doesn’t. Green MPs

Energy White Paper plans to burn, burn, burn it all

Burn it all. That is the plan in Australia’s new Energy White Paper. Released yesterday by Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson, it talks about responding to climate change while planning the…
The Queensland government has weakened environmental regulations to get more development along the coast. The Queensland government has weakened environmental regulations to get more development along the coast. John Harvey

Planning changes to accelerate Queensland coast development

The Newman-led Liberal-National Party (LNP) government in Queensland is aiming to boost economic growth by focusing on development in four areas; agriculture, tourism, mining and residential/commercial/industrial…
Killing starfish one by one is no long-term solution. Killing starfish one by one is no long-term solution. Paul Cizek

Crown of Thorns is a symptom of reef decline: let’s address the cause

A recent report on coral loss from the Great Barrier Reef has pointed the finger at cyclones and Crown of Thorns starfish. The real culprit is human activity, and until we reduce port activity and pollution…
The Great Barrier Reef may be huge and long-lived, but without intervention it’s in serious trouble. The Great Barrier Reef may be huge and long-lived, but without intervention it’s in serious trouble. Landfeldt/Flickr

The decay of the Great Barrier Reef calls for a reckoning

There is a myth about Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, that goes like this: because it is so big, biodiverse, so well-managed and generally bloody awesome, the GBR is immune to climate change and other…
Quarries and quandaries: Australia’s natural splendour is a major source of income, yet it sits uncomfortably with mining’s spread. Quarries and quandaries: Australia’s natural splendour is a major source of income, yet it sits uncomfortably with mining’s spread. AAP/Fantasea Adventure Cruising

Mining and the environment: the future of Australia’s brand

Australia has built a strong global brand based on its iconic natural beauty. For example, the new Australia Tourism campaign, “There’s nothing like Australia”, features icons like the Kimberley, Uluru…
Sanctuary: marine parks can create new ways to prevent illegal fishing. Sanctuary: marine parks can create new ways to prevent illegal fishing. Mia Hoogenboom, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University

Marine parks could help cut down on illegal fishing

Environment Minister Tony Burke announced the final proposed Commonwealth marine protected area (MPA) network last month. The network would be the largest in the world, covering more than a third of Commonwealth…
A bund wall surrounds the Fishermans Landing Wharf expansion in Gladstone. A bund wall surrounds the Fishermans Landing Wharf expansion in Gladstone. AAP/Dave Hunt

UNESCO throws down gauntlet on Great Barrier Reef ports

The sealing of a leak of dredge spoil (harbour-bottom scooped up and dumped in a landfill area) in a bund wall in Gladstone harbour was announced on 25th of June by the Gladstone Ports Corporation. Scientists…
The announcement of a marine park network is unlikely to calm the worries of Great Barrier Reef conservation groups. The announcement of a marine park network is unlikely to calm the worries of Great Barrier Reef conservation groups. AAP/Greenpeace

New marine reserves won’t address UNESCO’s Reef concerns

Today’s announcement of a network of marine parks for Australia is a big step forward in marine conservation. However, major threats to one iconic marine area, the Great Barrier Reef, are land-based…
Networks of nature: a potato cod with striped cleaner wrasse at Osprey Reef, an area in the expanded marine reservations announced today. Networks of nature: a potato cod with striped cleaner wrasse at Osprey Reef, an area in the expanded marine reservations announced today. Flickr/richard ling

Big splash: welcome back to top-shelf marine conservation

Today’s announcement of a national network of marine parks is really a memorable day for Australian nature conservation. The political rhetoric and self-congratulation associated with major events is often…
Minister Tony Burke is slowing down coal development in Queensland, but there’s more to it than saving turtles. Minister Tony Burke is slowing down coal development in Queensland, but there’s more to it than saving turtles. Landfeldt/Flickr

Commonwealth and Queensland face off over coal and Great Barrier Reef

The halt in the Alpha Coal Project approval process shows the Commonwealth is taking very seriously UNESCO’s recent report threatening downgrading the status of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area…
Can a booming coal industry and a Heritage-Listed reef co-exist? Can a booming coal industry and a Heritage-Listed reef co-exist? AAP/Dave Hunt

The Great Barrier Reef at a crossroads

Last Friday the World Heritage Centre and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) released a report on the state of the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest World Heritage Property…
Another wave is coming: the coral-killing crown of thorns starfish. Another wave is coming: the coral-killing crown of thorns starfish. Flickr/<SLIM>

Great Barrier Reef dying beneath its crown of thorns

The Great Barrier Reef is under attack from a range of enemies including climate change effects (coral bleaching, increased severe storms, and ocean acidification), pollutant discharge from the land, coastal…
How Queenslanders vote may affect parts of the Great Barrier Reef such as Heron Island. How Queenslanders vote may affect parts of the Great Barrier Reef such as Heron Island. AAP/Heron Island

Coal seam gas, the Great Barrier Reef and the Queensland election – an analysis of party policy

Queensland is different from other states in that it only has a lower house. In other states minor parties achieve representation in upper houses — and therefore have a role in government — through proportional…
UNESCO is reviewing whether more needs to be done to preserve the reef’s heritage listing. UNESCO is reviewing whether more needs to be done to preserve the reef’s heritage listing. AAP

Is the Great Barrier Reef listing? The UN asks if we’re still heritage-worthy

Obtaining a World Heritage listing for a national asset is a source of great pride for any country. The Taj Mahal (1983), Borobudur (1991) and Uluru (2007) are examples where countries have obtained the…
Mass bleaching at the Keppel Islands in 2006. Our greatest natural asset is under threat, but you wouldn’t know it from reading Andrew Bolt. Mass bleaching at the Keppel Islands in 2006. Our greatest natural asset is under threat, but you wouldn’t know it from reading Andrew Bolt. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg

Drowning out the truth about the Great Barrier Reef

MEDIA & DEMOCRACY - Ove Hoegh-Guldberg dives into the media’s coverage of an Australian icon’s future. One of the most straightforward climate change storylines is the link between global warming and…

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