Green fears for Great Barrier Reef over dredging

2014-02-01 21:58
(Catlin Seaview Survey, AFP)

(Catlin Seaview Survey, AFP)

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Sydney - Environmentalists expressed concern for the future of the Great Barrier Reef on Saturday after a decision to dump dredged material inside the protected coral reef marine park.

Activist group GetUp! launched a national campaign on Saturday to fight the decision in the courts.

Up to 3 million cubic metres of sludge will be dumped inside the marine park as part of a plan to expand a coastal port for the export of coal.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority approved the plan on Friday, saying the sludge will be dumped well away from reefs and won't impact on the world famous coral.

"It's important to note the sea floor of the approved disposal area consists of sand, silt and clay and does not contain coral reefs or seagrass beds," authority chair Russell Reichelt said.

The dredging plan is supported by the Australian government.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said dredging will be subject to strict environmental conditions. But Australian Marine Conservation Society spokesperson Felicity Wishart said the fine sediment stirred up by dredging can travel 80km and reach the coral reef.

Greenpeace plans protest action against the dredging, which is expected to start within a few months.

Spokesperson Louise Matthiesson said dredging puts the reef's world heritage status at risk and threatens tourism and fishing industry.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters said her party will propose laws in parliament to ban offshore dumping.

Darren Yates, chief executive of mining giant GVK Hancock, said the expanded port at Point Abbot will open up large coal reserves and create 20 000 jobs.

Read more on:    australia  |  marine life  |  conservation

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