The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has decided that the massive coral bleaching that has been happening to the Great Barrier Reef is not enough to consider it "In Danger."
The Australian government is celebrating UNESCO's decision and calls it a "big win" for the continent, but things may not be as well as it seems.
According to Federal Environment Minister Josh Freedenberg, they have received reports that the government's Reef 2050 plan — an integrated government strategy aimed at improving the Great Barrier Reef's condition — has been showing positive results.
"Of course coral bleaching has been significant but we've also seen the health of the reef be encouraged in the years leading up to the most recent bleaching event," he expressed.
However, there is still a big possibility that avoiding the "In Danger" status may or may not be helpful for the reef's restoration.
Some possible effects of avoiding the "In Danger" status are listed below.
Saving Australia's Face And Tourism
Some believe that UNESCO decided against labeling the Great Barrier Reef as "In Danger" in order to help the Australian government avoid embarrassment. By doing so, tourism in Australia would also be able to avoid a negative impact on its tourism sector, which could also affect the nation's economy.
"It supports more than 69,000 Queensland jobs, provides billions of dollars into the Queensland economy each and every year," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
This is because, once the reef is added to the list of world heritage sites "In Danger," the government would have to take drastic actions to save the reef and may even be forced to limit or close off the site for tourism.
Since Premier Palaszczuk already revealed that the Great Barrier Reef supports the livelihood of thousands of people in Queensland, one can only rightly assume that any move to limit tourism in the reef would affect at least 69,000 people.
Renewed Determination To Save The Reef
By avoiding the "In Danger" status, the Australian government and citizens could take it as an opportunity to redeem themselves and spark a renewed vigor to save their reef.
The government could study, propose, and initiate more plans and projects aimed at restoring the reef's natural beauty and stop any commercial activity that threatens to undo its efforts. The citizens could also become more proactive in finding ways to preserve the reef.
This is exactly what UNESCO hopes its decision would achieve.
"The World Heritage Committee strongly encourages the nation (Australia) to make accelerated efforts so as to ensure the meeting the long-term and intermediate targets of the plans, that are essential to the resilience of the property, specifically about the quality of water," UNESCO states.
Little To No Assistance For Australia
UNESCO explains that placing a world heritage site under the "In Danger" list would allow the organization to provide immediate assistance to the concerned governments in order to address the issues endangering it.
Since the Australian government chose to avoid being added to the list, it means that all responsibilities to save and restore the site will be in Australia's hands. It is a nice thought for an independent nation but, considering that the Great Barrier Reef's condition is already very grave, perhaps a little assistance would be wise.
Giant Pandas were removed from the endangered species list in 2016 but China was not too happy with the decision, claiming that it could lose all conservation achievements.
In some way, this could also be the case with both Australians and tourists who could relax and become careless with the way they interact with the reef.
That's not saying tourists are usually careless, but there's no harm in ensuring they have the extra reminder to be mindful and act responsibly while enjoying the environment.