Agricultural pesticides are causing a significant amount of damage to the nation's Great Barrier Reef, according to a report from the federal government.
About 28,000 kilograms of pesticides are entering the Great Barrier Reef annually. The report, which is the federal and Queensland government's report card into the reef's health, rated the overall health and water quality of the reef as moderate. Released last Friday, the report is based on 2008 to 2009 data and does not include the effects of Cyclone Yasi and Queensland's floods.
The report found that 14 million tones of sediment from human activities wash into the World Heritage natural wonder every year.
Most of the pesticide runoff comes from the Mackay and Whitsunday sugarcane farming region in North Queensland. The report revealed that one-quarter of horticulture producers and 12% of pastoral farmers were not complying with industry standards to dispose of the pesticides.
Pesticides at toxic concentrations are known to harm coral. They have been found up to 60km (38 miles) inside the Great Barrier Reef. The heavy flooding and the Cyclone Yasi have made the situation even worse with pollutants being flushed to the sea.
The agriculture industry has responded saying that the findings were based on old date and that there has been significant change since then. Sugar cane growers have asked to continue using the weed-killing pesticide Diuron. The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority were to have suspended the use of Diuron this week because of its effects on waterways. The authority has postponed the decision until September to give the industry time to appeal.
"Many landholders are working to improve land management practices to reduce impacts on the reef and the Gillard government is supporting them to make these changes," Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said. He added that monitoring the impact of runoff and sediment on the reef is important to the federal government.
The Queensland government is investing $175 million over the next five years to implement a reef plan and additional $50 million to implement reef protection laws and research.
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