The Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan

The Great Barrier Reef is a precious natural treasure, enjoyed and appreciated by Australians and by visitors from around the world. This diverse and unique ecosystem, including coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove swamps is important not only for its spectacular biodiversity, but also for its contribution to the economy.

Risks to the health of the reef and associated ecosystems stem from a range of activities, including runoff of nutrients, suspended sediments, and pesticides from agriculture; coastal development and shipping through the reef. Illegal fishing in some parts of the reef continues to pose a risk to key fish species.

Longer-term, escalating risks are from climate change, with continued warming leading to coral bleaching.  Global carbon dioxide emissions are causing ocean acidification and decreasing the ability of shell-making animals and plants to build the reef structure.

We have made progress in easing some pressures on the reef, such as runoff from land and dumping of dredge spoils. More needs to be done to make the reef as resilient as possible to all the challenges it faces.

The complexity of the task of protecting the reef over coming decades highlights the need for long-term support for science at a scale commensurate to the challenge. We will need science to monitor the health of the reef and adjacent land areas, and to adapt our management practices to the multiple evolving risks facing the reef. We have learned a great deal about the Great Barrier Reef. Yet more needs to be done to increase our fundamental understanding of how the reef and its connected systems interact and respond to multiple cumulative impacts.

I am encouraged by the Government’s recognition of the importance of science in the Long-Term Sustainability Plan for the Reef, and the commitment of additional support for managing threats to the reef. I welcome the establishment of an independent expert panel, and I am pleased to accept the role of Chair of the panel. I am looking forward to working with our best scientists to do all we can to ensure the long-term health of the reef. Science is the cornerstone of our commitment to the Great Barrier Reefs’ future. Our science, like our reef, requires a long-term, sustainable and sustained commitment from all parties.

Professor Ian Chubb