SYDNEY – The Australian government announced on Monday AU$60 million ($48 million) for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral system in the world.
The money will be dedicated to increasing personnel and the number of vessels to fight the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish or Acanthaster planci, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a statement.
It will also provide incentives for farmers over the next 18 months to reduce pollution caused by farming that ends up in coastal areas where corals are located.
The protection program also envisages the development of new technological tools to protect the world-heritage ecosystem that in the last two years has suffered from massive coral bleaching which has destroyed a large part of the reefs.
Turnbull said that Australia is committed to implementing the Reef 2050 Plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
According to the Plan, “the Australian and Queensland governments are investing more than $2 billion over the coming decade to improve the health of the Reef.”
The investment is one of the commitments made by the government to prevent the Great Barrier Reef from entering the list of endangered heritage, together with improving water quality, protecting areas from deforestation and putting a brake on dredging.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) criticized the measure as being insufficient and called on the government to make an urgent transition to renewable energies and prohibit the exploitation of coal mines to combat the threat posed by climate change in this natural space.
“Funding research is necessary, but it will be a classic case of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic unless the federal government moves quickly away from coal and other fossil fuels,” AMCS campaign director Imogen Zethoven said in a statement.
Experts believe that corals will have fewer uninterrupted recovery periods because sea water temperatures continue to rise.
The health of the Great Barrier Reef, home to 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 varieties of mollusks, began to deteriorate in the 1990s due to the double impact of the rise of sea temperatures and the increase in its acidity due to the greater presence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.