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Great Barrier Reef escapes 'endangered' listing by World Heritage Committee

By
Kyle Barnett
The Great Barrier Reef is composed of almost 3,000 individual reefs and 900 islands that span about 1,400 miles over 215,000 square miles in the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland, Australia. File Photo by Wagsy/Shutterstock/UPI
The Great Barrier Reef is composed of almost 3,000 individual reefs and 900 islands that span about 1,400 miles over 215,000 square miles in the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland, Australia. File Photo by Wagsy/Shutterstock/UPI

July 23 (UPI) -- The Great Barrier Reef escaped being listed as an "endangered" UNESCO World Heritage Site during a meeting Friday to determine the reef's environmental status, despite experts' insistence that it should be on it.

The decision not to add the world's largest coral reef system, located off the Australian coast, followed fervent lobbying by the Australian government against adding it to the endangered list. It also went against the recommendation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which says it should be given protected status.

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"Our concern was always that UNESCO had sought an immediate 'in danger listing' without appropriate consultation, without a site visit and without all the latest information, and it is clear that this process has concerned not only Australia but other nations as well," Australian environment minister Sussan Ley said, according to The Guardian.

Not landing on the list gives Australia a buffer against concerns from environmental experts for the reef.

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"This is a victory for one of the most cynical lobbying efforts in recent history. This is not an achievement -- it is a day of infamy for the Australian government," Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter told The Guardian.

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Members of the committee who voted against listing the reef came from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ethiopia, Hungary, Mali, Nigeria, Oman, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saudi Arabia and Spain.

Bahrain and Saudi Arabia voted to put the next vote off until 2023, but an objection by Norway set the next evaluation for 2022.

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Earlier this year, Scientists said intervention is needed to save the Great Barrier Reef, which has receded in part due to mass bleaching events in recent years.

Australia reacted with anger last month after UNESCO recommended in a 206-page report that the reef be listed on the endangered list.

Australia has spent billions to protect the reef and launched a plan to rehab environmental effects on the system by 2050.

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UNESCO will now carry out a mission to the Great Barrier Reef by February to compile a progress report for next year's evaluation.

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