In a move that would spell doom for the already fragile coral reefs, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority recently approved the dumping of over one million tonnes of sludge into the reef waters. The reef has already lost a considerable amount of corals due to bleaching events caused by rapid increase in ocean temperatures.
The decision comes in the same month that runoff from flooding in Queensland, Australia threatened to smother part of the reef and two years after the unique ecosystem was weakened by back-to-back coral bleaching events caused by climate change.
GBRMPA issued a permit on Jan. 29 for North Queensland Bulk Ports to dump maintenance dredge sludge within the park’s boundaries. In doing so, it exploited a loophole in a 2015 law meant to protect the reef. The law banned capital dredging, but said nothing about port maintenance, the process of removing sediment that builds up in shipping lanes. The permit would allow maintenance dredging and dumping over 10 years at Mackay’s Hay Point port, which BBC News said was one of the world’s largest coal export sites.