Australia announces record investment in Great Barrier Reef

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Investigations showed that two successive heat waves killed almost half of the corals in the most pristine part of the Great Barrier Reef.

Of that, $201 million will go towards improving water quality by changing farming practices; $100 million for Reef restoration, and encouraging resilience and adaptation; $58 million expanding the fight against coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish; increasing community engagement with $45 million, and; $40 million to enhance health monitoring.

Aerial surveys conducted in April previous year showed more than two-thirds of the coral in the Barrier Reef had experienced "shocking" amounts of bleaching.

Image: Bleached coral is photographed on Australia's Great Barrier Reef near Port Douglas, February 20, 2017 in this handout image from Greenpeace.

Kelly O'Shanassy, CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation, also stressed that climate change and the use of fossil fuels are the major cause of the reef's destruction.

"We must improve water quality".

Unless the coral conservation plan is accompanied by a "strong policy, to slash our carbon pollution, stop the Adani coal mine and rapidly shift Australia to renewable energy, we will not see a future for the reef", said Imogen Zethoven of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Australia's ABC News reports. We must address crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks.

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"Clearly the government isn't investing in the entire Great Barrier Reef but importantly it will probably be investing in areas where we have targeted commercial interests - those tourists jobs", she said.

The 2016 bleaching event, the worst on record, mainly affected the north of the reef, while the recent damage has mostly impacted the middle sections, according to scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

The Great Barrier Reef is considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world and is the largest living structure on the planet. "These funds represent an unequalled opportunity to create a legacy of hope for future generations".

A further $56 million will bolster the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Department of Environment and Energy to expand management and compliance operations.

"The reef supports some 64,000 jobs, over $6 billion it is worth to the economy, and attracts more than 2 million visitors a year."

The Authority's future funding has also been secured with an additional $10 million in annual funding from 2022-23.