Great Barrier Reef $500 million funding to breed resilient coral

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A University of Sydney marine biology professor, Maria Byrne, says the funding measures are welcome, especially for those areas of the reef heavily dependent on the tourism market.

She said the government needed to commit to a credible science-based plan to tackle climate change.

Turnbull said part of the money would be used to mitigate the impact of climate change, but gave no details.

In a further breakdown of the $444 million, $201 million will go into improving water quality, $100 million will go into reef restoration science, $58 million to combat the crown-of-thorns starfish, and $45 million for community management and engagement.

Image: Bleached coral is photographed on Australia's Great Barrier Reef near Port Douglas, February 20, 2017 in this handout image from Greenpeace.

Critics seized on Australia's continued subsidized development of gas and coal, especially its openness to the Adani coal mine in northern Australia that would be among the world's largest, pushing coal on boats running near the reef.

"It's not working, it's not achieving major water quality improvements", he told Reuters by telephone on Sunday.

"The more we understand about the reef, the better we can protect it", Frydenberg was quoted as saying by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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The 2016 bleaching event, the worst on record, mainly affected the north of the reef, while the recent damage has mostly impacted the middle sections, according to scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

A serious outbreak of crown-of-thorns starfish — which might develop to 13in and have as much as 21 arms — is destroying the reef.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific Climate and Energy Campaigner, Nikola Casule, said the Reef's destruction could be pinned on fossil fuels.

The world's largest coral reef system has lost 30 percent of its coral due to bleaching, which is blamed on climate change and pollution. The reef's health and prospects are increasingly grim.

"Today's major investment brings real solutions within our grasp", he said.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and The Department of the Environment and Energy will also get an additional funding of $56 million.

The reef is a critical national asset, contributing AU$6.4 billion a year to the Australian economy.

In 2016, Labor also pledged $500 million of funding over five years towards the Reef if elected.