200 scientists call for a stop to Barrier Reef dredging

MORE than 200 Australian scientists have urged the head of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority not to approve a major dredging project proposed for Abbot Point north of Mackay.

An open letter from the scientists, led by many from James Cook University and the Australian Coral Reef Society, was sent to GBRMPA chief Russell Reichelt this week.

Signatories to the letter include scientists at the CSIRO, University of Queensland, Australian National University and Southern Cross University among others.

The letter urged him to deny an approval for a permit to dredge and dump more than 3 million cubic metres of sediment at the port, near the marine park boundary.

While Environment Minister Greg Hunt has already approved the project, it still faces another regulatory hurdle, with the

Authority due to hand down its final decision this week.

The project has been at the centre of concerns about dredging near the reef, with a decision on the dredging project repeatedly delayed by the current and former federal government.

In the letter, the scientists pointed to the Authority's main role in protect the values of the marine park and World Heritage Area.

It also cited recent research released by GBRMPA, which found the movement of dredge spoil dumped offshore was much more than previously thought.

"Claiming to 'offset' the 5 million tonnes of dredged sediment by catchment work is the wrong approach and very unlikely to be possible with the limitations of budget and workforce," the open letter reads.

"We need to avoid creating this dredged sediment in the first place, whilst also working within the catchments to reduce run off."

The Authority is due to release a final decision on the project by the end of this week.