SYDNEY - Australia has to take swift action to protect the Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site, amid significant threats from industrial projects as a February deadline looms, environmental groups say.
Heralded as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the reef is home to 400 types of coral, 240 species of birds and 1,500 species of fish. It is worth A$6 billion annually to the local economy in tourism.
UNESCO warned Australia last June over development on the reef, and the United Nations has said that the area could be listed as "in danger" if there is no evidence of progress by Feb 1.
"Australia's most important environmental asset is under serious threat from existing and proposed industrialization along the Queensland coast," said Felicity Wishart, campaign director for the coalition composed of WWF Australia and the Australian Marine Conservation Society, on Wednesday.