16 June 2014


In less than 24 hours, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee gathers in Doha to cast an important vote that will impact the future of our Great Barrier Reef. They’re not the only ones voting on the Reef though. Over the past three weeks, more than 280,000 people in a staggering 185 countries have voted to see the Reef protected. From Colombia to the Coral Triangle and Cairns to Coober Pedy, the message is loud and clear; we want the Reef protected for future generations – dumping dredge spoil in World Heritage Waters is not ok.

As Australians we are very proud of our World Heritage list Great Barrier Reef. Referred to as the ‘Amazon of the ocean’, it’s home to 1,500 different species of fish and a diverse marine life – and incredibly, the only organism visible from space. 

UNESCO-GBR social media storm
© Troy Mayne / WWF-Aus

You would think our World Heritage Reef would be one of the most protected places in Australia, if not the world. But shockingly our Reef is at risk of massive industrialisation with plans for four megaport developments along the Queensland coast, including one of the world’s largest coal ports at Abbot Point - just 50km for the Whitsunday Islands – and 7,000 ships crossing the Reef each year. To make way for the proposed new megaports and shipping ‘superhighways’ there are plans on the table for millions of tonnes of seabed to be dumped in World Heritage waters.

Already the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority – the very people who should be protecting the Reef – have approved dumping of 3 million cubic metres to be dumped at Abbot Point. That’s a big number, so to put it into perspective, picture 150 thousand dump trucks, stretching end to end, from Brisbane to Melbourne. And all of this comes at a time when the United Nations has put us on notice that the Reef could be declared World Heritage in Danger – the World Heritage list of shame.

Dredge spoil is a mixture of sand, sediment and rock that’s best left undisturbed. It can be carried by winds and currents for up to 80km, where it clouds the water and blocks sunlight, starving seagrass and coral, smothering it to death. What’s more, increased activity in the area will affect the feeding and breeding of sensitive marine life, disturbing their natural ecosystems.

The English would not allow dump trucks to unload in the waters of the Lake District, and I can’t imagine Americans standing by if a huge cargo of waste was destined for the Grand Canyon, and yet our government has approved dumping in World Heritage waters, whilst a possible ‘in danger’ listing looms.

When it meets in Doha this week, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee must do the responsible thing and hold the Australian Government accountable for protecting the Reef. On Monday 16 June - the first day of the UNESCO World Heritage meeting - millions of people around the world will be taking to social media with the hashtag #FightfortheReef, creating a media storm that the decision-makers cannot ignore. I’m confident that with your support we will be heard.

Join the #FightfortheReef Social Media Storm on June 16

Look for your message in the #FightfortheReef Live Feed on – www.younesco.org