Speed Reads

down under

With the Great Barrier Reef in trouble, Australian government trying to figure out how to save it

In an attempt to save the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian government is looking into a 35-year plan that will cut pollution, fight invasive sea life, and regulate port developments near the reef.

The Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half of its coral since 1985, the government reports, and the United Nations says it could list it as "in danger" next year. "It's in a mess," snorkeling guide Byron Conroy told NPR. "The biggest one I see on a day-to-day basis is coral bleaching caused by climate change. So, just an increase of 2 degrees in water temperature causes all the algae to dispel from the coral.... If that doesn't get resolved, the water temperature doesn't sort itself out within six months, all the coral dies off."

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure in the world, and almost two million tourists come from around the world to visit. If something isn't done soon to fix the reef, "that would bring terrible shame to Australia," Felicity Wishart with the Australian Marine Conservation Society told NPR. "It would potentially put tourists off coming here and be a real blow to the tourism industry."

Although the 35-year plan is a start, environmental organizations say one huge flaw is allowing companies to continue to dispose of millions of tons of sediment from port dredging on the reef. "It doesn't have big, new, bold actions that can be implemented immediately," says Richard Lek of Australia's World Wildlife Federation.