The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) has expressed extreme concern with the decision by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to re-issue a permit to allow dredging of 82,500 cubic meters and dumping of 378,000 cubic meters of dredge spoil from the port at Hay Point in the Marine Park.
Felicity Wishart, AMCS Great Barrier Reef campaign director said the original permit conditions for the proposed maintenance dredging and dumping were shoddy and the decision to re-issue the permit with only a few improvements, whilst a step forward, was still inadequate.
“In June 2014 we wrote to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority asking them to reconsider the dredging and dumping permit at Hay Point which poses risks to seagrass and coral in the region.
“GBRMPA have decided to amend the permit, alter a few of the conditions of the approval but still give it the go ahead.
“It’s appalling that these basic conditions were not in the approval in the first place.
“It raises more questions about GBRMPA’s role and independence as the body whose primary purpose is to protect the Reef.
“The altered conditions include requiring that the environmental management plan is actually implemented. This was not in the original approval, which stated that a plan only had to be written. What’s the point of a plan that doesn’t have to be implemented?
“The permit now requires ensuring that monitoring of impacts includes assessing for coral disease. Previously it didn’t. Past monitoring at Hay Point failed to measure coral disease and this should have been an obvious requirement by GBRMPA.
“The permit was also amended to ensure dredging and dumping does not occur when coral is spawning. This is a sensitive time in the lifecycle of coral and you would expect GBRMPA to understand the risks posed by dredging during this period.
“The permit has also been amended to ensure that visual checks are made for dolphins, dugongs and turtles before dredging and dumping can occur. This should have been a condition of the permit in the first place.
“It’s even more alarming that, despite public complaints and warnings by the scientists, more dredging and dumping has still been approved for the Great Barrier Reef, one of the great natural wonders of the world,” said Ms Wishart.
Press Release, August 1, 2014