UN to Australia: You Have Year to Protect Barrier Reef
Will be listed as 'in danger' if government doesn't curb development, pollution
By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2013 11:38 AM CDT
An aerial view shows the Great Barrier Reef off Australia's Queensland state.   (AP Photo/Queensland Tourism, File)
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(Newser) – Australia's Great Barrier Reef may lose its world heritage status if the country doesn't clean up its act. UNESCO has postponed a decision to put the 133,000-square-mile coral reef system on its "World Heritage in Danger" list, giving the Australian and Queensland governments a year to curb mining and development in the region, the Wall Street Journal reports. The reef is the only living organism that can be seen from space, and is home to 400 varieties of coral and 1,500 types of fish.

"The Great Barrier Reef is an iconic environmental asset and the Australian government is absolutely committed to the protection of the reef and our oceans," says Australia's environment minister, adding the government has now committed $200 million to rescuing the reef. However, UNESCO says it needs to do more, including curbing planned port expansions and reducing agricultural run-off, reports the Guardian. The conservative state government admits squabbles with the more liberal federal government have delayed the creation rescue plan, but one was finally approved Monday, which the state environment minister says already addresses UNESCO's concerns, the Australian reports.