The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most incredible natural treasures that exists on Earth, and Australia just made a critical vote to keep it that way.
Stretching more than 2,300 kilometers off the coast of Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) has a wealth of biodiversity. This ecosystem is home to more than 1,500 fish species, hundreds of coral species, and hundreds of species of sea turtles, sharks, and sea mammals.
Preservation of the GBR has been compromised, due to ocean acidification due to climate change, pollution, and reckless human tourism Fortunately, the GBR will now be safe from one incredibly damaging practice: dumping dredge spoil.
Dredging, the practice of siphoning sediment on the sea floor and relocating it, occurs for many reasons. Unfortunately, this is incredibly harmful to marine ecosystems. Not only does it destroy the habitat of bottom-dwelling creatures where the dredging occurs, but stirring up the seafloor can also release formerly settled pollutants back into the water.
This vote, which took place in Queensland, expands the range of a dredge spoil ban that was passed in June.
"For everyone around the world who cares about the reef this is a moment to savour," Dermot O'Gorman, CEO of World Wildlife Fund in Australia, explained in a statement. "We've stopped up to 46 million cubic metres of dredge spoil from being dumped in reef waters in coming years. That's enough dredge spoil to fill 4.6 million dump trucks."
A large component to the success of this initiative was that more than 500,000 concerned citizens from Australia and around the world signed petitions, contacted government officials, and raised public awareness about the topic.
"This is a huge win for people power," O'Gormon continued. "We thank the scientists, mums and dads, Australians young and old, and concerned citizens around the world who have all contributed to this victory. And we thank the federal and Queensland governments for listening and acting."
Of course, this isn't the first large-scale effort to preserve the GBR. It was declared a World Heritage Area in 1981, as it was considered significant enough to warrant international protection for its preservation.
While this vote to ban dumping dredge spoil is a massive victory for those who care about the GBR lasting for centuries to come, humans still need to come together and address the other problems that threaten this paragon of nature.