by GBRMPA Media
Statement from Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) Chairman Russell Reichelt on the recent release of the State of Conservation Report and draft decision for the World Heritage Committee:
'The World Heritage Centre has released a State of Conservation Report and draft decision for the World Heritage Committee to consider.
'Once the State of Conservation Report has been considered by the World Heritage Committee at their meeting at the end of June, Australia will formally respond to the decisions that come from that meeting.
'We are well across the major threats to the Reef that the report has raised - the threats to the Reef and the issues impacting on it highlighted in the report are clearly acknowledged in our 2009 Outlook Report. Shipping has also emerged as an issue in recent times.
'Over the past 35 years, there has been considerable investment and management effort by GBRMPA into building the resilience of the Reef. This has placed it in a far better position to withstand threats to its outlook.
'The report recognises 'a history of strong management practices of which many are high quality and an example to other marine protected areas'.
'We already have in place a robust program of initiatives which are helping to tackle the impacts head on. These include: Zoning Plan, the 2009 Outlook Report, the Reef Rescue initiative, and Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Action Plan.
'There are also many examples of cooperative management under the Inter-Governmental Agreement between the Australian and Queensland Governments, including a robust joint Field Management Program for the Reef.
'Our Reef Guardian stewardship program is a comprehensive program involving schools, councils, farmers, graziers and fishers. Almost 10 percent of the Great Barrier Reef Region's school population has been getting involved to help build a healthier and more resilient Reef.
'Climate change is an important issue facing virtually all World Heritage areas. Many of the initiatives already in place in the Great Barrier Reef are building the Reef's resilience.
'The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most extraordinary places on Earth. We take our role in caring for it very seriously. The Great Barrier Reef is widely acknowledged as one of the best managed and healthiest coral reef ecosystems in the world.
'The Marine Park is a vast area and it's important to keep that in context – many of the issues raised are localised and do not affect the entire Reef area.
'The Great Barrier Reef stretches over 2300 kilometres - more than two thirds of the Queensland coast - from Bundaberg to the Torres Strait. The Great Barrier Reef is a natural wonder. It covers more than 340,000 square kilometres and is bigger than the Victoria and Tasmania combined.
'The majority of tourism occurs in Cairns and Whitsundays. These areas and tourism are not the focus of this report. The tourism experiences on offer in the Great Barrier Reef have not changed – and the standard to which these are carried out – are world leading.
'Our priority for the coming year is to undertake the Strategic Assessment of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park which helps us identify the values of the Reef that need protecting, the threats to those values and what we need to do to address them.
'It's about recognising the right of Queensland's communities to grow and thrive, but ensuring the Reef is also protected now and into the future. It's also about rallying the support of industry and community to step-up and help care for the Reef to make it healthier.'
State of Conservation report and draft decision for the World Heritage Committee
Shipping through the Great Barrier Reef is forecast to grow exponentially in the next 20 years.