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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

4 July 2003

Kemp launches 'State of the Reef' report


Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today launched the 2003 `State of the Reef Report' - the first comprehensive assessment of the condition of the Great Barrier Reef since 1998.

"The 2003 `State of the Reef' report states the facts – that is the Great Barrier Reef is under mounting pressure," Dr Kemp said during his address to the Reef summit in Townville.

"According to the report, the annual flow of sediments and nutrients from land-based activities into the Reef has increased four-fold since European settlement; the numbers of nesting loggerhead turtles have declined between 50-80%; dugong populations adjacent to Queensland's urban coast are estimated to be only 3% to what they were in the 1960's; and the Reef has suffered two of its worst ever recorded coral bleaching events caused by unusually hot sea water.

"Indeed, this is sobering news but it is not unique to the Great Barrier Reef. The report states there are similar pressures elsewhere in the world, which has seen a loss of up to 25% of the world's coral reefs.

"Despite these pressures, many parts of the Great Barrier Reef are still in very good condition. But the report warns there is no room for complacency on the part of industry, the community and governments.

"The Howard Government recognises this and has made an unprecedented effort to make the Reef sustainable on an ecological, economical and recreational basis."

The Howard Government, through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), has:

Dr Kemp said the launch of the 2003 `State of the Reef' report was timely with the recent announcement of the draft Reef Water Quality Protection Plan and RAP Zoning Plan.

"The draft Reef Water Quality Protection Plan aims to protect the Reef while ensuring the ecological and economic sustainability of the agricultural industries on land adjacent to the Reef," Dr Kemp said.

"Meanwhile, great care has been taken in drafting the proposed Zoning Plan to minimise impacts on existing users, particularly commercial and recreational fishers and the tourist industry, and this will continue throughout the entire consultation process.

"But despite these efforts, there are still many challenges confronting us. However, I am confident the wide range of programs in place will help governments, industry and the community work together in protecting this great national icon."

The 2003 `State of the Reef' report follows the first comprehensive assessment of the Reef in 1998, which chronicled the condition of the Reef's massive ecosystem in one single volume.

The 1998 report was commissioned by the Howard Government with a commitment to undertake another assessment of the Reef within five years. It is the first time a document of this detail has been commissioned by any Australian Government.

"The 1998 report has proved to be an enduring and valuable document and is often quoted in scientific and management circles. I expect the 2003 report to also be well received for its factual and frank assessment and to become an equally valuable resource in protecting the Reef to the benefit of all," Dr Kemp said.

The 2003 `State of the Reef' report – published as a virtual document for the first time – can be accessed at www.gbrmpa.gov.au.

Commonwealth of Australia