Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest structure made by living creatures. Among the world’s most biologically rich places, it contains over 2,500 individual coral reefs and around 400 different coral species. It is home to more than 1,500 fish, 4,000 mollusks, 240 birds, and a diversity of other species. In 1981, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is declared a “World Heritage Site” because of its outstanding universal value.
However, in recent years, Australia’s desire to expand its commodity ports, for the exports of coal and natural gas, seems to conflict with the health of the reef. Over the last few years, numerous developments of coal and gas port terminals within the reef have been approved; despite concerns that it is degrading the reef and harming the ecosystem. Because of the new ports terminals, there has been an expansive increase in shipping activity within the Great Barrier Reef. This is of concern because ships generate a lot of underwater noise, which is now recognized as a serious threat for many marine species, such as dolphins and whales, which use sound to navigate, feed, and communicate. Human-made noise from ships can disrupt these activities or cause them extreme stress, sometimes leading to stranding events.
Environmentalists, the international community, and users of the Great Barrier Reef are calling for the government to assess all threats through their environmental impact process before any new developments within or around the Great Barrier Reef are approved.
Photo credit: NOAA Corps