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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

12 August 2003

Healthy Reef Key to Surviving Global Warming


Federal Environment and Heritage Minister, Dr David Kemp, today expressed support for a new report on "Global Climate Change and Coral Bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef".

The report, based on research by the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the CSIRO and the CRC Reef Research Centre, states that global warming is a threat to the Great Barrier Reef, and that it's ability to survive will be enhanced if it is otherwise healthy, and resilient.

It called for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and on improving reef resilience and said: "We believe that current initiatives of federal and state governments in relation to protected areas, fishing and water quality should all work to promote ecological resilience in coral communities."

The report concluded that reef resilience would be "good" if the programs being undertaken by government were successfully implemented.

Dr Kemp welcomed the endorsement of the government's actions in relation to biodiversity and water quality and said the key programs aimed at improving reef resilience were the joint Commonwealth-Queensland Water Quality Protection Plan, and the Commonwealth's Representative Areas Program, which aims to protect more of the reef in "no-take" zones.

"Current efforts to protect biodiversity, improve water quality and promote sustainable fisheries are critical to the future health of the Reef," Dr Kemp said.

"The report recommends that the best thing the government can do is to maintain the resilience of the reef, and that is exactly what we are doing.

"These efforts include a draft plan to increase by up to six-fold the area of the Reef protected from fishing and coral harvesting to protect biodiversity; the water quality protection plan for the Barrier Reef lagoon in partnership with the Queensland government, a wetlands restoration program, and the recent announcement of ongoing funding to fight Crown of Thorns starfish infestation."

Dr Kemp said the Commonwealth was also committed to meeting Kyoto targets for greenhouse gas reductions, and to an improved global approach to emission reductions.

"I note that Labor's Environment spokesman today called for the government to ratify the Kyoto protocol to address the coral bleaching issue, but I also note that the Labor Premier of Queensland, in announcing this report, concentrated instead on working with the Commonwealth on issues like water quality."

Commonwealth of Australia