Asia Minute: Protecting the Great Barrier Reef

Jan 23, 2018

Aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef
Credit Sarah_Ackerman / Wikimedia Commons

The government of Australia plans to spend nearly 50 million U.S. dollars over the next year and a half to improve the health of the Great Barrier Reef. But most of the spending is going off-shore. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

To save the coral, engage the farmers. That’s the approach of Australia’s latest government attempt to rehabilitate parts of the Great Barrier Reef.

The reef stretches for 1,600 miles off the coast of Northeast Australia—that’s longer than the distance from Boston to Miami.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is targeting run-off from water pollution largely on farms, and tens of millions of dollars will go to restoring vegetation around reef catchments.

The goal is to stall erosion—which loosens soil and sends it ocean-bound.

Another target, an “all-out assault” on the Crown of Thorns starfish. That type of starfish eats coral—a lot of it.

Crown of Thorns Starfish
Credit jon hanson / Wikimedia Commons

The Australian Institute of Marine Science says almost half of the decline in coral cover on the reef between 1985 and 2012 was because of the Crown of Thorns starfish. Dive patrols have already cleared more than 300,000 starfish from the reef.

Other money will go to fund research into coral resiliency—a topic that’s also under study here in Hawai‘i.

Tour operators are supportive of the new plans, but critics say they don’t go far enough in dealing with the impact of climate change as well as the planned construction of a massive new coal plant in Queensland State.