Queensland’s peak resources sector body said it remains confident that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will continue to base its decision-making on the best available science.
Queensland Resources Council Chief Executive Michael Roche said today that as a result of an expensive but transparently deceptive campaign by environmental activists to demonise port developments, there was growing confusion over real and present dangers to the park’s long-term health.
‘In its landmark 2012 report, the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) concluded that storm damage (48%), crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks (42%) and bleaching (10%) were directly responsible for a 47 percent loss of coral cover over the preceding 27 years.
‘The 2013 Scientific Consensus Statement on the reef’s health states clearly: ‘The overarching consensus is that key Great Barrier Reef ecosystems are showing declining trends in condition due to continuing poor water quality, cumulative impacts of climate change and increasing intensity of extreme events.
‘The things we must to do to address the challenges identified by the world’s best marine scientists is work to improve the quality of water flowing into the 2,300km reef lagoon by reducing nutrient levels and continuing to manage crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks.
‘Right now, it is reported that up to 2,000 starfish a day are being taken out of action on reefs north of Cairns using a recently perfected single injection culling technique,’ he said.
Mr Roche said that since the Great Barrier Reef’s Marine Park’s declaration almost 40 years ago, neither port dredging nor shipping movements had been scientifically recorded as contributing to coral cover loss or a historical decline in the environmental health of the marine park.
‘There are no proposals to deposit dredge sediment on the reef, seagrass meadows or any other areas of high conservation value identified by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
‘The federal Environment Minister has imposed some path-breaking conditions on the dredging project including that 150 percent of the total amount of fine sediments potentially available for re-suspension in the marine environment must be offset by a reduction in the load of fine sediments entering the marine environment from the Burdekin and Don catchments.
‘The Minister has also imposed a cap of 1.3 million cubic metres of sediment that can be dredged or disposed of in a year and those activities can only be undertaken between 1 March and 30 June each year to protect water quality during critical times for seagrass growth and coral spawning.’
Mr Roche said the annual cap on dredging for the Abbot Point coal terminal was on par with a program recently completed at the Port of Bundaberg to restart sugar exports.
‘This project relocated 900,000 cubic metres of Burnett River flood sediment choking the port, which is adjacent to the Mon Repos turtle rookery and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
‘Interestingly, there has not been a peep out of environmental activists and their fellow travellers over this project, and one can only conclude that their real agenda is leveraging the iconic status of the Great Barrier Reef to shut down Queensland’s export coal and gas industries,’ Mr Roche said.
Press Release, January 17, 2014