Great Barrier Reef Choking on Pollutants
Attempts to protect the Great Barrier Reef are failing. A report released Monday by the government in Australia says water quality in the Great Barrier Reef is far below what it should be.
The report assessed the condition of the reef between 2009 and 2014. It showed that pesticide and pollution have decreased, but not enough to reach environmental targets.
Sediment and chemicals can weaken coral, hurting its ability to feed and grow. Coral are live animals that take root in the ocean floor, but they are not plants. Reefs are the hard skeletons left at the bottom of the sea by small marine creatures called polyps. The polyps then form the larger structure of a reef.
Corals also are some of the most diverse ecosystems on the entire planet. They can make a home for invertebrates, crustaceans, fish, and sea snakes to name a few.
Steve Miles is Queensland's environment minister. He says the research shows the reef needs more protection.
"Over that five-year period, we did see some progress towards our targets. Sediment is down 12 percent and pesticides loads are down 30 percent. But what is most disturbing is these results are far from our targets. Progress towards these targets flat-lined in the period 2013-2014. If one of my kids came home with a report card like this, I would be a bit disappointed. There is more bad news here than good news."
The report also found that fewer than one-third of Queensland's sugar plantations used techniques to reduce the use of pesticides.
Only 28 percent of land managers -- known as graziers -- managed their land properly. They had reduced harmful water runoff to safeguard the health of the reef. The official target is a 90 percent reduction in pesticide use within three years.
Farmers' say they are going to use more sustainable practices as soon as possible.
I'm Bob Doughty.