The Australian Museum has welcomed a plan for sustaining the Great Barrier Reef but says it focuses on the impacts of port development and associated dredging while ignoring impacts from climate change, tourism and commercial fisheries.

In a submission to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), Dr Brian Lassig, Director of the Australian Museum Research Institute, expressed cautious support for the Authority’s Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan.

‘We welcome the fact that under the sustainability plan, the Queensland Ports Strategy prohibits dredging for the development of port facilities within and adjoining the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area’, Dr Lassig said.

‘The sustainability plan mentions other threats to the Reef, including water quality issues and Crown-of-Thorns Starfish, but no mention is made of increasing water temperatures, ocean acidification and increasing severity of storms which affect the entire reef and not just coastal areas and ports.'

Crown of Thorns Starfish
Lyle Vail with a COTS retrieved from a reef near Lizard Island. Lyle Vail with a COTS that he has retrieved from the coral. Note that he is holding it with tongs. Image: Charlie Shuetrim
© Australian Museum

Dr Lassig said the sustainability plan outlines extensive reporting arrangements but questioned the Authority’s capacity to collect the data needed for underpinning management decisions and reporting on the Reef environment.

‘We are also concerned the sustainability plan seems to be diffusing the long term fate of the GBR to many agencies which do not have as their core business the continued maintenance of the biodiversity and functioning of the GBR’, he said.

The Australian Museum has deep knowledge of the GBR, with over 100 years of data on Reef biodiversity. Since 1973, it has operated a coral reef research station at Lizard Island at the northern end of the GBR. Dr Lassig completed his PhD on the GBR and led the GBRMPA’s research program into the Crown-of-Thorns Starfish before undertaking marine research, monitoring and policy roles with the Commonwealth Government and his current role with the Museum.

Read the Museum's full submission here.