Marine conservationists welcome Labor’s commitment to tackling threats to our Reef and environment

Labor’s announcement that, if elected, it will invest $1.2bn in projects that will tackle threats to the Great Barrier Reef and provide additional funds for endangered wildlife, is welcome, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) says.

AMCS also welcomes Labor’s pledge, reported in media, that it will establish a national threatened species program and respond to an independent review of the national environment laws if elected on 21 May.

The announcement includes upfront funding of $194.5m across the next three years dedicated to Reef protection programs to help support the resilience of our Reef as it suffers from repeated heatwaves driven primarily by the burning of fossil fuels.

AMCS CEO, Darren Kindleysides said: “This is a critical decade for our Reef and the communities that rely on it. With our Reef having just suffered through its fourth mass bleaching event since 2016, we welcome this investment in tackling local threats to build our Reef’s resilience to global heating.

“Water pollution is devastating for inshore areas of the Reef, including coastal ecosystems like seagrasses, mangroves and inshore corals, further impacting the iconic marine wildlife like dugongs and turtles which depend on these habitats.

“Given the slow progress in addressing water pollution to date, it’s vital funding is directed towards the highest risk catchments.

“We welcome that funding would support work with farmers on more efficient fertiliser use, catchment and wetland restoration, gully repair and addressing erosion and sediment pollution.”

There is also a welcome commitment from Labor to ensure a sustainable fishing sector, with protection for iconic Reef species like dugongs, turtles and dolphins from accidental capture and illegal fishing. Increased funding must cover better compliance and transparency in high risk commercial fisheries on the Reef, delivering cameras on boats and protection from gillnets in areas of high conservation value, Mr Kindleysides added.

In late January, the Coalition government committed to investing $1bn in the Reef across nine years, with over half allocated to tackling water pollution. Labor’s commitment amounts to $1.2bn until 2030. The Greens have pledged $2bn for water quality over 10 years. These welcome commitments still fall short of the estimated $4bn needed to meet the 2025 water quality targets both the Australian and Queensland governments have agreed to.

“The parties’ funding commitments are recognition that the future of our Reef is an important issue for Australian voters. Investment in both local threats and stronger action to tackle the climate crisis are both essential if we are to ensure the Reef remains for many generations to come,” Mr Kindleysides said.

Labor’s commitment to spending $224.5m over the forward estimates for a national threatened species program to address a backlog of around 200 species recovery plans, is also welcome. AMCS looks forward to learning more details of this plan and how it will help marine wildlife facing the extinction crisis.

The party has also pledged to respond to Graeme Samuel’s independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, and develop a national conservation strategy if elected. The next term of government must urgently strengthen Australia’s environmental laws.

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