Australia’s government has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars toward protecting the Great Barrier Reef, in what’s being called the largest single investment in the embattled ecosystem ever.
The administration of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced Sunday it is earmarking more than AU$500 million, or $379 million in U.S. dollars, to protect the reef in partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. The reef has lost a large percentage of its coral in recent decades due to a variety of environmental stresses.
The funds will go toward combating water pollution, predatory coral-eating starfish, increasing public awareness and reef monitoring, as well as modifying surrounding businesses so that they are more environmentally sound, Turnbull’s office said.
“Our contribution, through the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, represents the single largest funding commitment ever for reef conservation and management in Australia’s history,” Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s environment and energy minister, said in an op-ed that stressed that “the right plan and the right investment” will ensure the reef’s survival.
Some environmentalists fear, however, that the action doesn’t target the real issue at hand: global warming.
The world’s largest coral reef, spanning 133,000 square miles, has endured extreme environmental strain in recent years, to the point that a fake obituary that was written for it in 2016 went viral.
Coral bleaching caused by warming water temperatures has already destroyed nearly 30 percent of the reefs, according to one recent study.
Crown-of-thorns starfish, which eat coral, have also been blamed for a large percentage of the decline in coral cover between 1985 and 2012, according to the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
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