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Great Barrier Reef dredging report shows damaging impacts and alarming knowledge gaps

Media Release
Larissa Waters 25 Mar 2015

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Dredge Synthesis Panel Report, out today, confirms that dredging has damaging impacts and the full extent of the long-term impacts is unknown.

"The report confirms there are still significant knowledge gaps and uncertainty about the impacts of dredging in the Great Barrier Reef," Senator Larissa Waters, Australian Greens environment spokesperson, said.

"Yet dredging is going on in the Reef right now, with much more proposed or approved to go ahead in the future.

"While significant uncertainty remains, the precautionary principle means that we should give the Reef the benefit of the doubt and not continue with mass dredging until we understand its long term impacts.

"The precautionary principle, that the absence of scientific certainty should not be a barrier to environmental protection, is already written into our national environment laws, but it is being ignored.

"What scientists know for sure, is that dredging has severe localised impacts, including on seagrass beds, which are breeding and feeding grounds for dugongs and turtles.

"The report also finds there is evidence of turtles dying during dredging excavation and that the artificial light, underwater noise and turbidity generated by dredging may impact marine life.
"What scientists don't yet know is what the long-term impacts are, or how dredging impacts a wide range of species, including migratory birds.
"We don't need more dredging for new ports in the Great Barrier Reef - industry isn't even using current ports to full capacity.

"The existing port at Abbot Point, for example, is only running at half of its capacity.

"Yet the Abbott Government had approved mass dredging at Abbot Point to expand this port into one of the world's largest coal ports.

"Exporting hundreds of millions of tonnes of coal out through the Reef will not only damage the Reef through dredging and shipping but it will dramatically exacerbate climate change - the biggest threat the Reef faces," Senator Waters said.

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