Science academy joins call to stop dredging near reef

THE Academy of Science has urged the Abbott government to pass new laws to ensure there will be no more dredging outside key ports near the Great Barrier Reef.

A submission from the Academy to the Reef 2050 plan has lent further weight to repeated calls from numerous environmental and scientific leaders for a ban on dredging and dumping of spoil.

The Academy has further warned that the draft plan will fail to prevent the further decline of the reef, and fails to adequately address the key pressure facing the reef.

While the government has not publicly released submissions to the plan, the Academy on Tuesday called for more action.

Academy fellow Professor Terry Hughes said the science was clear, and that the current plan "won't restore the reef, it won't even maintain it in its already diminished state".

The Academy's calls follow similar warnings on the failures of the strategic assessment of the reef from the Australian Heritage Council and numerous environmental groups.

"It is also more than disappointing to see that the biggest threat to the reef - climate change - is virtually ignored in this plan," Prof Hughes said.

"While the plan identifies targets for reducing agricultural runoff, any improvements are likely to be swamped by unprecedented amounts of dredging for coal ports and by plans by the Queensland Government to double agricultural production by 2040.

"The future of this national treasure, which generates over $5 billion per annum for the Australian economy, depends on less pollution from runoff and dredging, less carbon emissions from fossil fuels and less fishing pressure."

Prof Hughes also said the plan seemed "overly focused on the short-term task" of addressing the World Heritage Committee's concerns about the reef, rather than the long-term challenges.

Consultation on the official plan ended this week.

Public consultation on the "broad elements of the plan" will continue until January next year.


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