Great Barrier Reef spared Unesco 'in danger' listing

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Media captionTurtle-cam reveals unique view of Great Barrier Reef

United Nations heritage body Unesco has voted not to put Australia's Great Barrier Reef on its world danger list.

The decision has been welcomed by the state of Queensland, which generates billions of dollars in tourism revenue from the reef.

Despite deciding against giving the reef protected status, Unesco did warn that it faced "major threats".

The reef, which stretches 2,000km (1,200 miles) along the coast, is the world's largest living ecosystem.

Jackie Trad, Queensland's deputy state premier, told the BBC she was "absolutely pleased about the decision".

"It was an incredible moment in history, in Queensland and Australian history," said Ms Trad.

She acknowledged there had been a decline in the health of the reef, but said that the Queensland government had made "strong commitments" to protecting it.

Australia will have to report back to Unesco at the end of 2016 and again in 2020 to show its implementation of the body's recommendations.

Dredging danger

Some environmentalists had argued that the reef needed to be added to the 45 sites already on Unesco's list in order to protect it from worsening water pollution and major coastal development projects.

At the talks in Bonn, Germany, Greenpeace voiced concerns that the approval of the development of new coal ports would mean new dredging - removal of parts of the seabed - on the Queensland coast.

"Until the plans for the massive coal mine and port expansion are dropped, it's impossible to take Australia's claims that they are protecting the reef seriously," Greenpeace's Jess Panegyres said.

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Image caption The reef generates a vast amount of tourism revenue for Australia

Dermot O'Gorman, of the WWF conservation group, said that the committee's decision "places Australia on probation".

Australia said it had "clearly heard" the concerns of the environmental groups and would commit an additional A$8 million ($6.2m; £3.9m) for monitoring the reef.

'Enormous scientific importance'

A report published in 2014 concluded that the condition of the reef "is expected to further deteriorate in the future". Climate change, extreme weather, and pollution from industry were listed a key concerns.

Earlier this year, Australia submitted a plan to Unesco outlining how it would address the threats to the reef.

This included a proposed objective of reducing pollution by 80% before 2025, as well as reversing a decision to allow dredged material to be dumped near the reef.

  • The Great Barrier Reef includes 3,000 coral reefs and 600 islands
  • It is the world's largest marine park, covering 348,000 sq km
  • It contains 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 kinds of mollusc
  • It attracts about two million tourists each year.
  • The region contributes A$6bn ($4.6bn; £3bn) a year to the Australian economy

Q&A: World Heritage 'in danger' list

In pictures: Great Barrier Reef

The reef - a vast collection of thousands of smaller coral reefs stretching from the northern tip of Queensland to the state's southern city of Bundaberg - was given World Heritage status in 1981.

The UN says this is the "most biodiverse" of its World Heritage sites, and that is of "enormous scientific and intrinsic importance".

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