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Water Science & Technology Vol 43 No 9 pp 203–211 © IWA Publishing 2001

Catchment management and the Great Barrier Reef

J. Brodie*, C. Christie**, M. Devlin***, D. Haynes****, S. Morris*****, M. Ramsay******, J. Waterhouse******* and H. Yorkston********

*Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, PO Box 1379, Townsville, 4810, Australia
**Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, PO Box 1379, Townsville, 4810, Australia
***Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, PO Box 1379, Townsville, 4810, Australia
****Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, PO Box 1379, Townsville, 4810, Australia
*****Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, PO Box 1379, Townsville, 4810, Australia
******Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, PO Box 1379, Townsville, 4810, Australia
*******Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, PO Box 1379, Townsville, 4810, Australia
********Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, PO Box 1379, Townsville, 4810, Australia


ABSTRACT
Pollution of coastal regions of the Great Barrier Reef is dominated by runoff from the adjacent catchment. Catchment land-use is dominated by beef grazing and cropping, largely sugarcane cultivation, with relatively minor urban development. Runoff of sediment, nutrients and pesticides is increasing and for nitrogen is now four times the natural amount discharged 150 years ago. Significant effects and potential threats are now evident on inshore reefs, seagrasses and marine animals. There is no effective legislation or processes in place to manage agricultural pollution. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act does not provide effective jurisdiction on the catchment. Queensland legislation relies on voluntary codes and there is no assessment of the effectiveness of the codes. Integrated catchment management strategies, also voluntary, provide some positive outcomes but are of limited success. Pollutant loads are predicted to continue to increase and it is unlikely that current management regimes will prevent this. New mechanisms to prevent continued degradation of inshore ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area are urgently needed.

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