New report adds to dredge debate

JUST weeks after Ports Australia released its report into capital dredging, another report has been compiled, this time by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) and Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS).

In contrast to the Ports Australia report, which states that environmental impacts of dredging are well managed and understood, the WWF/AMCS report finds that the mining industry understates the impact of dredging and dumping on the Great Barrier Reef.

According to the report's key findings, the reef is under threat from unprecedented industrial development, including seabed dredging, along the Queensland coast. The report also states that dredging eradicates seagrass and marine animals living in the dredge area and creates plumes that cover vast distances, often underestimated by industry.

Furthermore the report states there are significant credibility issues with claims about limited dredging impacts at Hay Point, south of the Whitsundays near Mackay.

Coral scientist Dr Selina Ward said there were issues with the monitoring program used at Hay Point, hence the developers' claim of little to no impact from the dredging.

"[But] we know some corals had up to 60 per cent coverage by sediment which would have been damaging for them," she said.

"How did they cope into the future? We don't know because the monitoring stopped six months after the dredging."

Dr Ward said there were many methods for measuring coral health that weren't used in this particular monitoring and as a scientist she questioned the results.

Great Barrier Reef campaign director for the AMCS, Felicity Wishart, said no longer could the mining industry and the State Government claim that dredging did not cause damage to the reef.

"Claims that 8.3million cubic metres of seabed dredged at Hay Point Port and dumped in the Great Barrier Reef's waters in 2006 led to no significant or long term environmental impacts are not credible," she said.

"The State Government is both the owner and the overseer of these dredging projects, which means that it is essentially checking its own homework and giving itself top marks."

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