30 Aug 2019


The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia says Australians and the global community will be looking for the Australian and Queensland Governments to take the action required to secure the Great Barrier Reef after the official outlook went from “poor” to “very poor”.

That downgrading is the main finding in the 2019 Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report released today, which says:

Without additional local, national and global action on the greatest threats, the overall outlook for the Great Barrier Reef’s ecosystem will remain very poor, with continuing consequences for its heritage values also. The window of opportunity to improve the Reef’s long-term future is now. Strong and effective management actions are urgent at global, regional and local scales. The Reef is core to Australia’s identity and improving its outlook is critical.

The Outlook Report is published every five years by the federal government’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. 

Meantime, the inshore Reef has scored a ‘D’ for overall condition in a separate analysis – the annual Reef Report Card – produced by the Federal and Queensland governments.

The score is based on the state of coral, seagrass and water quality. For seven out of the last eight reports the Reef has scored a D.

WWF-Australia Head of Oceans Richard Leck said these comprehensive reports were based on the best available science and are sombre reminders of the challenges the Reef faces. However, it’s not too late for the Reef and the solutions are in front of us.

Global warming is the primary reason the Reef’s outlook was downgraded to very poor; pollution from farming is the major contributor to the Reef scoring D.

“The Reef 2050 Plan is required to be revamped next year and must take climate change seriously and regulations to reduce farm runoff currently before the Queensland Parliament must be passed. The science is irrefutable – the time for delay is over,” Mr Leck said.

“The Outlook Report makes one thing very clear, there is still time to secure a future for Australia’s Great Barrier Reef."

“To achieve this, Australians must rise to the challenge of taking urgent and proportionate action on climate change."

“As one of the world’s largest exporters of fossil fuels, this will require a national commitment to transition our current domestic and export coal energy base to 100% renewables by 2030."

“The benefits in rising to this challenge will not only help shore up Australia’s economic future, but also dramatically increase our ability to retain a vibrant and prospering Great Barrier Reef."

“We know the Reef is resilient. Action on climate change and water quality will give the Reef the best opportunity to survive global warming,” he said.

Mr Leck said the Outlook Report has major implications for the World Heritage Status of the Great Barrier Reef.

In its 2015 decision, the World Heritage Committee said it would reconsider the Reef in 2020. That timing was so that it could evaluate progress based on the 2019 Outlook Report.

“Nobody wants to see the Reef placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger."

“Australia can continue to fail on climate policy and remain a major coal exporter or Australia can turn around the Reef’s decline. But it can’t do both. That’s clear from the government’s own scientific reports,” Mr Leck said.