Dredging Impacts Coral Reefs, Finds Study

Queensland scientists have shown in a study that dredging poses damaging impacts to places like the Great Barrier Reef.

The study conducted by Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and James Cook University has found the first concrete evidence which links turbidity and sedimentation to elevated levels of coral disease.
It shows that corals near the dredging sites have disease twice as much as other sites.

The report found that dredging made water muddy, which eventually led to disease and that is a major factor in coral diseases.

The findings are at odds with the campaign run by Environment Minister Andrew Powell to prohibit UNESCO from listing the Great Barrier Reef in danger.

Citing a report of Australian Institute of Marine Science of 2009, Mr. Powell argued that the biggest impacts on the Reef are extreme weather, coral bleaching and crown-of-thorns starfish and not dredging, shipping or ports.
Corals died and left behind white coral skeletons. It was also feared that the diseases might linger much after dredging ended.

Joe Pollock, a researcher, said that there was no particular distance that could be set for dredging or spoil dumping from corals because much depends on how far plumes can travel under local conditions. He said that twice as much disease was found at dredging sites than at the control sites.

AIMS scientist Britta Schaffelke said that turbidity and sedimentation were critical pressures on coral reefs.

Pollock said that the findings would have "direct implications for coastal managers charged with balancing economic development with the imperative to maintain healthy coral reefs". He also highlighted the concerns of the World Heritage Committee about dredging and dumping in and around the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

It also follows the controversy of dredging and dumping at Gladstone Harbour which has been continuing inside the World Heritage Area of the Reef, which has already prompted two government inquiries.