The federal government appears to be confused about how best to protect the iconic Great Barrier Reef, the Australian Conservation Foundation said today as reef authorities lifted the coral bleaching threat to level 3 – the highest level.

Scientists monitoring coral bleaching – where colourful corals turn white in warmer-than-usual waters – say this season’s bleaching is among the worst they have seen.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who inspected the damage from a planeyesterday, announced government plans for more monitoring and a continuation of programs tackling the crown-of-thorns starfish and sediment runoff.

“The government appears to be confused about the cause of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef,” said the Australian Conservation Foundation’s CEO Kelly O’Shanassy.

“Burning coal is heating the globe and warmer oceans are bleaching coral.

“Scientists say there were no coral bleaching events recorded before the 1970s.

“This is a phenomenon that is firmly a result of climate change, fuelled by burning coal.

“If the federal government was serious about protecting the Great Barrier Reef there’s no way it would have approved Adani’s plan to dig the biggest coal mine in Australia.”

ACF is challenging the Minister Hunt’s approval of Adani’s Carmichael project in a Federal Court case to be heard in Brisbane in May.

ACF will argue the Minister failed to consider whether the impact of climate pollution, resulting from burning the mine’s coal, would be inconsistent with Australia’s international obligations to protect the World Heritage-listed Barrier Reef.

“NASA has confirmed February 2016 was the hottest month ever recorded – by a long way,” Ms O’Shanassy said.  “This is no time to approve massive new coal mines.

“It’s time for governments to prepare for the end of the coal industry – with fair transition plans and comprehensive mine rehabilitation,” she said.

ACF Media Enquiries

Journalists with enquiries may contact Tom Arup on 0402 482 910 or Josh Meadows on 0439 342 992. For all other enquiries please call 1800 223 669 or email action@acf.org.au.