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Media Release
Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

12 December 2005

New hope for threatened Coral reefs

An eight year research project by scientists at one of Australia's most remote national parks may offer new hope for threatened coral reefs in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Greg Hunt MP, Parliamentary Secretary with ministerial responsibility for the Pulu Keeling National Park, said today.

Mr Hunt released the scientific report on the status of the Cocos (Keeling) reefs at the park's 10th anniversary celebrations.

"Coral reefs are suffering around the world and their preservation for future generations presents a great challenge for many of us.

"There are many factors that contribute to degradation of our coral reefs including bleaching of the reefs by warmer water and changes to the biodiversity of the reef's environment such as the depletion of traditional predatory species that previously kept crowns of thorns starfish in check," Mr Hunt said.

"This scientific report from Parks Australia is great news - it shows that the Cocos Keeling reef is healthy and stable, with little impact from human activities. Live coral cover is high and reaches levels of between 50 to 70% at most sites."

Mr Hunt said the reef's future was more secure with the report revealing the reef's genetic makeup details.

"This reef shares genetic characteristics with reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific which offers the prospect of re-establishing coral and fish populations in the event of an environmental catastrophe elsewhere," Mr Hunt said.

Australia was one of the first countries in the world to sign up to an international action plan to help save the world's coral reefs in 1995. Pulu Keeling National Park, with its intact coral atoll ecosystem, is of international significance because of its deep waters and its remote location away from human contact.

Since 1997, the Australian Government has funded an extensive monitoring program using internationally recognized 'Reef Check' survey methods. This data is supplied to the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network that is assembling the world's largest international database on coral reef status.

"This monitoring has already provided us with detailed information to help us manage the reef sustainably which has resulted in a positive relationship between the Australian Government and the Western Australian Government in assessing the future of coral harvesting for the aquarium trade along with the wider preservation of the reef," Mr Hunt said.

Media contact:
Kristy McSweeney (Mr Hunt's office) 0415 740 722 - 02 6277 2276
Christmas Island (15-19 December) 08 9164 8055 ( Images are available)

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