Great Barrier Reef submission

Here is my submission for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s consultation on the Draft Great Barrier Reef Interventions Policy.

The submission focuses on the historical and ongoing impact on the reef of animal-based food production. This aspect is largely ignored by major environmental and climate change campaign organisations, which otherwise generally have much to say about the reef.

The submission initially highlights the loss of coral since 1960, the extent of which is far greater than is generally reported.

It then considers the impact of farmed animal grazing in the form of sediment and nutrient discharge to the reef’s waters.

The submission also considers impacts on seagrass, with adverse climate change and biodiversity outcomes.

The draft interventions paper notes that the Authority “considers restoration and adaptation interventions likely to be an integral part of its work on protection and conservation of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) into the future”.

It also notes that some interventions being considered are unprecedented, complex and potentially harmful, and that a wide range of actions or processes, engineering concepts and delivery methods are likely to be required.

A general transition away from animals as a food source, as proposed by the submission, would avoid the technical complexities and concerns involved in other measures under consideration. It would, however, require society to consider approaches required to ensure that such a transition was fair and equitable.

Here are some charts from the submission.

The first shows that around eighty per cent of coral coverage has been lost between 1960 and 2017.

The second shows that grazing of farmed animals is the dominant land use in the Great Barrier Reef catchments, covering nearly three times the area of all other activities combined. That fact reflects the gross and inherent inefficiency of animals as a food source.

It is difficult to overstate the negative impact of animal agriculture on Australia’s environment since European settlement. The effects are ongoing and dramatic, with the sector’s strategic marketing approach seeking to portray a vastly different image to the general community.

If we are to protect and maintain our precious natural assets, we must honestly and directly address the critical problems we have created. Government support for powerful animal agriculture industry forces would contribute to long-term adverse outcomes for the Great Barrier Reef and Australia as a nation.

It is important that domestic and international consumers be informed of the impacts of their food choices, and that producers’ costs include a component that reflects (as far as possible) the adverse environmental outcomes they create.


Paul Mahony


Featured image: Jemma Craig, Shutterstock ID 1767057104

Cover image: Paul Mahony, All Rights Reserved

Chart image: V_E, Shutterstock ID 260385482

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