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Australia pledges $700 million to protect Great Barrier Reef

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Australia pledges $700 million to protect Great Barrier Reef
An astronaut aboard the International Space Station captured a view of these three reefs in Australia's Great Barrier Reef on October 12, 2015. File Photo by NASA/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Australia pledged on Friday to spend $700 million over nine years to improve water quality of the Great Barrier Reef.

The move comes months after the site narrowly avoided being designated as "in danger" by UNESCO due to the threat of climate change and before a Feb. 1 deadline to submit a conservation report to the United Nations agency.

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The pledge by Prime Minister Scott Morrison for spending over the next nine years is the largest single investment into the world's most extensive coral reef ecosystem.

The significant tourist destination supports 64,000 jobs and contributes $6.4 billion annually to the economy, but has suffered bleachings that have wiped out large swaths of coral in 2016, 2017, and 2020.

Critics say the move won't save the reef from the effects of climate change.

"The worry is that it is a billion-dollar band-aid," World Wildlife Fund Australia head of oceans Richard Leck said, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Morrison has said that the reef is the "best-managed reef in the world."

"We are backing the health of the reef and the economic future of tourism operators, hospitality providers and Queensland communities that are at the heart of the reef economy," he told The Sydney Morning Herald.

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About 80% of the Reef catchment supports agricultural production. The move will support better land management practices.

The reef stretches over 1,400 miles off Australia's north-east coast and is home to more than 1,500 types of fish, over 400 kinds of hard corals and dozens of other species.

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