The Great Barrier Reef needs immediate conservation efforts to ensure that the biodiversity of the region and natural beauty remain intact and to that end the Australian government announced a A$60 million in funding for an 18-month programme to help restore the health of the ailing Great Barrier Reef.
The announcement was made by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull; however, it turns out that conservation and climate change activists believe the efforts are “nowhere near enough” and have blasted the government for taking a ‘meaningless’ step to solve the gigantic problem at hand.
As per the plan, A$10.4 million (US$8.3 million) will be spent on increasing the number of vessels that control populations of the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish; A$36.6 million to incentivise farmers to reduce soil erosion and the amount of pollutants being washed into the ocean, and A$4.9 million to have more officers to monitor water quality and the health of the reef. There is funding for research on how to restore the reef.
The funding announcement comes merely days after biologists warned that the Great Barrier Reef was in a dire state and that it was suffering mass bleaching far earlier than expected this year. Coral bleaching is a phenomenon that occurs when water temperatures rise, causing the colourful algae living inside corals to leave. Since these algae are an important energy source for the corals to photosynthesise, corals starve during a bleaching event, and can die if the bleaching happens repeatedly or for a long period of time.
This year’s bleaching follows back-to-back bleaching events in 2016 and 2017, something scientists studying the reef said was unprecedented.
Campaigners slammed the announcement as “meaningless” and woefully inadequate. Most of the criticism stemmed from the fact that while poor water quality and predator organisms such as the Crown of Thorns starfish are a threat to the reef, experts say rising ocean temperatures pose “the greatest challenge” to its survival.
Nikola Casule, climate and energy campaigner, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, pointed out in a statement that despite the fact that climate change—which is largely driven by burning fossil fuels such as coal for energy—Turnbull’s plan devoted no resources to reducing Australia’s reliance on fossil fuels or fighting climate change.
Imogen Zethoven, director of the Fight for our Reef campaign, Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), echoed this sentiment. She added the Queensland government has found that A$800 million a year is required over the next decade to improve the health of the reef.
Scientists also criticised the plan as one that would be ultimately ineffective in protecting the reef.
Jon Brodie, professorial fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, told local media that programmes to remove the Crown of Thorns starfish had “minimal impact” on population numbers. He also pointed out that the government was not spending nearly as much as it should on this endangered ecosystem.
Other recent multimillion dollar efforts by the Australian government to help the reef include a A$2 million challenge to scientists and businesses to come up with solutions to protect corals and the trial deployment of A$2.2 million giant underwater fans to cool the water around the reef.