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State party report on the state of conservation of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (Australia)

Great Barrier Reef World Heritage areas Conservation Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is beautiful, vast and diverse. It is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem and a living natural wonder of the world. The Great Barrier Reef was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981. Australia is strongly committed to the responsible stewardship of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and continues to act and invest to protect its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and strengthen its resilience. Total investment to benefit the Reef over the decade ending in 2023-24 will exceed $2.7 billion.

Mass coral bleaching events in 2016 and 2017, six tropical cyclones, flooding, and a coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish outbreak have impacted the OUV of the property since the last State Party Report in 2015. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2019 (2019 Outlook Report) found that the long-term outlook for the Reef’s ecosystem has deteriorated from poor to very poor. It states that climate change (especially sea temperature rise) remains the most serious and pervasive threat to the Great Barrier Reef – a threat in common with all coral reefs globally. The other key threats identified in the 2019 Outlook Report are land-based run off, coastal development and some aspects of direct human use such as illegal fishing.

Concerted global action to limit global warming is needed to turn around the deteriorating outlook for the Great Barrier Reef – and all other coral reefs. This is the context in which Australia manages the Great Barrier Reef. We are actively managing the pressures over which we have direct control through investment and regulation based on the best available science. In the face of these pressures we are scaling up investment in reef restoration and adaptation science.

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