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Reef Report for Friday, December 12, 2003

Great Barrier Reef Conservation Plan Expanded

This week marks a truly outstanding day for anyone concerned with the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef, due to the Australian Government’s approval of a greatly expanded series of protected zone.

Up to this point, just 4.6% of the Great Barrier Reef was protected from fishing and other economic activities. © Great Barrier Reef Enterjprises The new program called the regional areas program, or RAP for short, expands this to protect a full 1/3 of the Great Barrier Reef.

The plan has been three years in the making, and has been guided to completion by the Great Barrier Marine Park Authority, a federal organization responsible for all aspects of administration of the reef. During that time, tens of thousands of people from all walks of life, including commercial and sport fisherman, conservationists, Aboriginal leaders, scientists, representatives of the dive industry; even the folks at DiveTheReef.com submitted reports, plans, suggestions and objections, which GBRMPA used to map out the protected areas.

For those of you interested in how the political process works in this case, this set of documents has been "tabled" by the House of Parliament, meaning the document sits for 15 working days in the Australian Parliament. If neither House of Parliament passes a disallowance motion about the plan, (which is considered doubtful, the Minister will determine a date for the Zoning Plan to come into effect, together with the Regulations that give effect to the Zoning Plan.

The protection plan is interesting, as it is aimed at protecting enough of each of the 31 distinct habitat types identified of by scientists studying the reef. Each of these habitat types hosts a different set of species, some of which are found only in that specific habitat. The Great Barrier Reef is an immense and diverse ecosystem, and this approach takes that into account by preserving areas all along the length of the reef.

While this is some of the best news we have been able to report, it does not mean that the Great Barrier Reef is completely protected. There are other factors to be concerned about. We recently spoke with Richard Leck of World Wildlife Fund Australia, who was elated at these recent developments. At the same time he mentioned that "non-sustainable fishing practices, threats to water quality caused by coastal population growth and agriculture, as well as the impact of global warming are potential threats to the Great Barrier Reef, and need to be examined carefully and addressed.

We urge you to keep up with what’s going on, take a look at the links below, and learn as much as you can. Education develops advocates.

Links:

Great Barrier Marine Park Authority

Regional Area Plan Description and Maps

Reef BioRegions Explained and Mapped

DiveTheReef’s tips for protecting the reef.

World Wildlife Fund Australia

Scientific analysis of the protection proposal.

As far as this week’s diving goes, it’s great! Now you can enjoy it knowing that your grandchildren have a better chance of enjoying it equally, as long as we keep educated and aware.

(C) DiveTheReef The weekly reef report is written by Joel Groberg of DiveTheReef.com, who compiles them from the many conversations he has with dive staff in the area, as well as  many other local sources in the dive community.

Index of all reef reports.

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