Southern Great Barrier Reef feature. Heron Island.
Southern Great Barrier Reef feature. Heron Island.

Govt report outlines challenges ahead for Great Barrier Reef

A CRUCIAL report on the future of the Great Barrier Reef has outlined the need for action to protect the heritage-listed reef from major threats.

The Federal Government handed the long-term outlook report for the reef to the United Nations on Sunday. It will be part of the World Heritage Committee's assessment of the reef at a conference in June.

The 68-page document highlights the challenges facing the reef's survival, and what actions are being taken.

It acknowledges climate change as the major threat to the reef, along with poor water quality, coastal development and direct human use including illegal fishing.

The report's surveys on the central and southern regions found coral cover had deteriorated since 2014.

But it also found the green sea turtle population in the southern reefs continued to recover, from the 2011 cyclone.

The report said mass coral bleaching events, six tropical cyclones, flooding, and a coral-eating crown-of-thorns-starfish outbreak have impacted the reef since the last report in 2015.

"Concerted global action to limit global warming is needed to turn around the deteriorating outlook for the Great Barrier Reef - and all other reefs," it said.

The report pointed to the Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan as an example of how the Australian Government had taken action to help protect the future of the world's largest coral reef ecosystem.

"Australia does not underestimate the scale of the challenges that lie ahead," it said.

But the report was slammed by Greens co-Deputy Leader and Queensland Senator Larissa Waters as "an exercise in spin". She said the Federal and State governments had not done enough to show why the reef shouldn't be listed as "in danger".

"Rather than taking strong action to address climate change, the Australian Government in this report is saying it's everybody else's problem," she said.