BARRIER REEF
A marine turtle swims in the Great Barrier Reef which is facing the onslaught of anthropogenic activities causing Unesco to consider placing it under the "world heritage in danger" list.REUTERS

The Australian Academy of Science has criticised government plans to protect the Great Barrier Reef as inadequate in preventing its decline and ignoring the impact of climate change, reports AFP.

The academy said that the plan failed to address problems with poor water quality, coastal development and fishing affecting the reef.

The draft plan prepared by the Australian government was meant to address concerns about the reef's health after Unesco threatened to put it on the "World heritage in danger" list following plans to dump dredged sediment in the reef.

Unesco had voiced concern about planned coastal developments, including development of coal ports and liquefied natural gas facilities, and told the government to improve management of the reef.

The Great Barrier Reef contains the world's largest collection of coral reefs with 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 mollusc varieties.

It has lost half its coral cover in the past three decades due to excessive bleaching and cyclones arising from climatic conditions.

Corals have been shown to be sensitive to rising seawater temperatures, ocean acidification, water pollution from terrestrial runoff and dredging, destructive fishing, overfishing and coastal development.

"This is a plan that won't restore the reef, it won't even maintain it in its already diminished state," academy fellow Terry Hughes said, noting that it addressed only the short-term concern of heritage listing while ignoring the need to restore the reef.

While the plan identified targets for reducing harmful agricultural run-off, any improvements would likely be lost in the unprecedented amount of dredging for coal ports and the Queensland state government's plans to double agricultural production by 2040, he said.

The draft calls for a ten-year ban on dredging to develop new ports or to expand existing ones both inside and next to the World Heritage site besides bans on ports in areas called as key incubators of marine life.

Targets for cutting agricultural pollution have been low in the draft as also funds allotted for restoring the reef.