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Official D grade for Great Barrier Reef water quality shows urgent need for Queensland Government regulations

September 2, 2019 Responsible Tourism No Comments Email Email

An official report showing worsening water quality in five of six inshore regions of the Great Barrier Reef shows the urgency of the Queensland Government’s proposed regulations to reduce run-off from farming, says the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS).

The joint Queensland and Federal government report card for 2017 and 2018 gives a D grade for the overall inshore condition of the Reef, saying that conditions had declined since the most recent 2016 report.

Imogen Zethoven, AMCS director of strategy, said: “We’ve had nearly two decades to fix this problem but the rate of change is far too slow to clean up the Reef’s waters. The report card underlines the need for new laws to tackle agricultural runoff damaging the Great Barrier Reef.

“The  report card results make it clear that voluntary measures are not working fast enough to fix the problem of fertiliser and soil running off the catchment, muddying and contaminating the Reef’s waters.”

The report card gives a water quality grade of D for the Fitzroy and Mackay/Whitsundays regions, saying conditions had declined since the last report in 2016 report.

In the Wet Tropics, Burdekin and the Burnett Mary regions, water quality was given a C grade, but conditions had also declined since the last report.

Only in the far north region of Cape York, where water quality was given a B mark, had the water quality conditions held steady.

The Report Card is released on the same day the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority updated its long-term outlook for our Reef to “very poor” for the first time.

On targets to cut Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen (DIN, from fertilisers) and sediment, the score card gives an E grade. Between July 2016 to June 2018, DIN was reduced by a mere 0.3% (16 tonnes) across the whole GBR catchment. Over the same period, sediment was reduced by 0.5% (about 29 kilotonnes).

Zethoven added: “This rate of progress is glacial. The adoption of best practice land management practices by some farmers in the Reef catchment is to be welcomed, but the rate of adoption is far too slow to prevent further deterioration of inshore reef ecosystems such as inshore corals and seagrass meadows that are vital habitat for many Reef species.”

The report card shows the sugarcane industry was the only agricultural industry to score an E for the adoption of land management practices. Only 9.8% of sugar cane land was managed using best farming practices, the report says.

Zethoven added: “This report makes it absolutely clear that regulations are needed to give the Reef a fighting chance in the face of all the threats it is dealing with.

“Our Reef is a global tourism magnet: it supports 64,000 tourism jobs and generates $6.4 billion a year. We cannot afford to let poor water quality damage the Reef anymore.”

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