For the best experience viewing this site, please upgrade your browser to the latest version of Internet Explorer, Chrome or Firefox.
Tourists stand in front of huts that form part of the Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort where a turtle digs for food amongst the coral in the island's lagoon, north-east of the town of Bundaberg in Queensland, Australia, June 9, 2015. UNESCO World Heritage delegates recently snorkelled on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, thousands of coral reefs, which stretch over 2,000 km off the northeast coast. Surrounded by manta rays, dolphins and reef sharks, their mission was to check the health of the world's largest living ecosystem, which brings in billions of dollars a year in tourism. Some coral has been badly damaged and animal species, including dugong and large green turtles, are threatened. UNESCO will say on Wednesday whether it will place the reef on a list of endangered World Heritage sites, a move the Australian government wants to avoid at all costs, having lobbied hard overseas. Earlier this year, UNESCO said the reef's outlook was "poor". REUTERS/David Gray TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

PICTURE 13 OF 23 FOR WIDER IMAGE STORY "GREAT BARRIER REEF AT RISK"
SEARCH "GRAY REEF" FOR ALL PICTURES      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Australia probes coal spill near Great Barrier Reef

By James Regan | February 8 2017

(Reuters) Coal has washed up in waters dangerously close to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, environmental authorities said on Wednesday, following an investigation into complaints of black dust on nearby beaches.

Ship-loading facilities at the port of Hay Point, which ships tens of millions of tonnes of coal annually to export markets worldwide, are at the center of the investigation by authorities in the northeastern state of Queensland.

But it was too early to say if the Hay Point port was the source of the coal and fine dust that washed up on the nearby beaches of East Point and Louisa Creek, the state’s environment minister, Steven Miles, told reporters.

“The impact on marine life and the reef is likely to be quite localized,” Miles added. “Provided the source can be identified and we can ensure it is not continuing to spill, it is likely to be possible to clean up.”

Hay Point is the largest of several coal ports located near the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and a flashpoint for environmentalists concerned over runoff contamination of the reef, a World Heritage site.

“This is another example of why coal and the Great Barrier Reef don’t mix,” said Sam Regester, campaigns director for the activist group GetUp! “We know more ships and more coal equals more accidents.”

In December, Australia earmarked expenditure of A$1.3 billion ($992 million) over the next five years to improve the water quality of the reef, to keep it off the United Nation’s “in danger” list.

Activists say the money is insufficient and want to see more concrete action to protect the reef.

More than two million people visit the reef each year, generating more than A$2 billion ($1.53 billion) in tourism dollars, an Australian government report showed in 2016.

Topics

Law

Related Articles