Australia’s Great Barrier Reef will receive $379.10 million in new funding to restore water quality and try to protect the coral from bleaching events, agricultural runoffs, climate change, and coral-eating starfish.
“Like reefs all over the world, the Great Barrier Reef is under pressure,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a statement on Sunday, calling the funding the largest granted to the famous tourist icon.
“A big challenge demands a big investment — and this investment gives our reef the best chance.”
The Great Barrier Reef, which can be seen from space, covers 348,000 square kilometers and was world-heritage listed in 1981 as the most spectacular coral reef on the planet, according to the website of the United Nations cultural body UNESCO.
Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said in a televised interview that some of the money would go directly to farmers to modify their practices “to ensure that the reef doesn’t get the large amounts of sediment, nitrogen and pesticide run-off which is so damaging to coral and which helps breed this crown-of-thorns starfish.” The plan is to reduce the runoff caused due to excessive use of fertilizers, pesticides, and other harmful waste for which, the outlet is directed towards the ocean.
But scientists and environmental advocates warn that the 1,400-mile-long Great Barrier Reef is already facing a full ecosystem collapse with global warming increasing water temperatures and acidity, leading to extensive coral bleaching. Two successive heat waves in 2016 and 2017 killed off nearly half of the northern reef’s coral, according to a study published this month.