The Great Barrier Reef is home to a vibrant marine ecosystem that fosters thousands of different species, many of which may now be threatened due to plans signed off by the Australian government. The country plans to dump one million tons of mud near the reef to create the world’s largest coal port. Despite “strict” environmental controls, many are concerned for the future of the reef.

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Selina Ward, a marine biologist at Queensland University, said that “dumping millions of tons of sediment near the reef could smother the corals and sea grasses while dredging risks releasing poisons on the seabed.” She signed a petition that opposes the plan earlier this week, along with 233 other scientists, according to Yahoo News.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt said he would demand “a 150 per cent net benefit requirement for water quality” in the reef area, which has already been called unachievable by Wendy Tubman from the North Queensland Conservation Council. “You’ve got water of a certain clarity, then you add three million cubic metres of dredge spoil, finds, sands, sludge… Now I don’t know about you, but I can’t see how that’s going to improve water quality,” she said.

The Abbot Point port near Queensland could generate a huge amount of income, which is why several companies have shown support for the expansion, and why many of the environmental concerns could fall on deaf ears. Exports are likely to run into the hundreds of millions of tons each year, with an estimated value of $1.4 – 2.8 billion.

UNESCO warned last year it was considering placing the reef on its endangered list for 2014 because of the threats it faces from dredging for fossil fuel ports, increased shipping frequency and run off from agricultural developments. Following this recent announcement, we hope this happens sooner rather than later.

Via TIME, YahooNews

Images by NQBP