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To float in such an aqueous body is to find a majestic creature unparalleled in beauty and expanse, stretching at 2,300km. There are other stunning formations on the planet, but the Great Barrier Reef has such dimension, form and cocksure brilliance as to make others shrink, not so much because of beauty as due to sheer scale and ecological variety.
But the Reef’s health record has been patchy. Each year brings a series of negative assessments about the patient. Its ticker is having palpitations; its central mineral supports in the form of coral life is being bleached. Water quality is being affected. The crown-of-thorns starfish, richly stimulated by nutrients from runoffs, has grown in number to savage the unmoving coral with relish.
With such activity, it was little wonder that the World Heritage Committee, under the umbrella of UNESCO, has suggested placing the Reef on the endangered list. While taking note of “many positive achievements by the State Party [Australia], progress has been insufficient in meeting key targets of the Reef 2050 Plan. The Plan requires stronger and clearer commitments, in particular towards urgently countering the effects of climate change, but also towards accelerating water quality improvement and land management measures.”
Despite the money committed by the Commonwealth government to protect the Reef, along with cross-institutional collaboration, “the long-term outlook of the ecosystem of the property has deteriorated from poor to very poor, and that the deterioration has been more rapid and widespread than was evident during the period 2009-2014.” Bleaching events from 2016, 2017 and 2020 “as a result of global warming”, are also noted in the agenda.
Given such considerations, the World Heritage Centre and the International Union for Conservation of Nature recommended “that the property is facing ascertained danger” and should be placed upon “the List of World Heritage in Danger.” Australia would be invited to collaborate with the World Heritage/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission “to develop a set of corrective measures” to enable the Reef to be removed from the list of world heritage in danger.