26 June 2015


A group of Australian divers have submerged themselves in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef to send a definitive message to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Bonn, Germany from this Sunday, June 28.

Holding a banner showcasing the flags of the Committee’s 21 member countries and the words ‘UNESCO, SAVE OUR Great Barrier Reef’, they urge the Committee to make the right decision on the Reef’s future protection at the landmark World Heritage meeting.

A draft decision has put Australia on probation until the health of the Reef improves. The World Heritage Committee will decide whether to keep Australia on probation or trust the Australian Government that the Reef is ‘just fine’.

The ruling comes three years after UNESCO warned Australia to make progress in protecting the Reef, and is critical to the future protection of vast populations of fish, sharks and other marine wildlife that teem within its unique coral reef ecosystem.

In the countdown to the decision, WWF is urging Australians to sign on to a global petition that calls on the World Heritage Committee to ensure it makes the strongest decision for the Reef - a petition that will be officially presented to Committee members in Bonn by WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman and Head of Marine Conservation Rick Leck.

The conservation organisation’s global Draw the Line campaign has already had a huge response overseas with over half a million people in hundreds of countries around the world pledging their support alongside prominent ocean conservationists such as Philippe Cousteau and Sylvia Earle.

“WWF has serious concerns about the Reef and we support UNESCO’s draft decision which keeps the pressure on the Australia Government to turn their promises to protect the Reef into real actions and results,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman.

“In reality Australia is being put on probation. The real work to turn around the decline of the Reef starts now."

“Unless there is significant improvement in the condition of the Reef, the World Heritage Committee will almost certainly declare the Reef “in danger” when it considers the findings of the next Outlook Report in 2020,” he said.

To add their name to WWF’s global Reef campaign, supporters can go to wwf.org.au to sign the petition and tell UNESCO to draw the line on the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. “There is still time to pledge your support to help secure a momentous win for the Great Barrier Reef,” said O’Gorman.

“Australians in particular have the greatest responsibility to ensure UNESCO gives the Reef the highest level of protection, not just for us but for others around the world and for future generations.”

Released this week, a poll conducted in six countries across the globe reveals widespread opposition to industrial destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and potential risks for the Australian tourism industry if the health of the Reef does not improve.

WWF-Australia Media Contact:

Mark Symons, msymons@wwf.org.au

WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman and Head of Marine Conservation Rick Leck will be on the ground at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Bonn, Germany from June 28-July 8.