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Australia Seeks Corporate Sponsors for Great Barrier Reef

The initiative sparks fears that companies could potentially use such investments to hide poor green credentials.

The Australian government is seeking corporate sponsorship for the Great Barrier Reef, sparking fears Wednesday that companies could potentially use such investments to hide poor green credentials.

The world's biggest coral reef has been under increasing threat from climate change, farming run-off, development and the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish.

Life In Australia's Great Barrier Reef: Photos

In a brochure entitled ‘Partnerships for the Reef', the government-backed Reef Trust said it was interested in sponsorship, joint investment and collaborative arrangements to deliver conservation projects.

It noted these could range from Aus$1 million (US$719,500) to improve seabird resilience to Aus$7 million to help control the crown-of-thorns starfish.

"Your role and commitment to protecting and conserving the Great Barrier Reef will be widely acknowledged," it said.

"All Reef Trust investments will be recognised in branding of project materials, ranging from online publications and reports to social media activities and reef events."

Coral Discovery In Australia Rivals Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef stretches more than 2,300 kilometres (1,426 miles) along Australia's east coast in resource-rich Queensland state.

Conservationists have long argued that exploitation of these resources, particularly coal, will risk harming the reef, as the material will have to be shipped out of the area, which is teeming with marine life.

The Australian Greens political party condemned the sponsorship idea, with Senator Larissa Waters asking: "What's next, naming rights, like for football stadiums?

"While private donations for reef protection are welcome they shouldn't be in exchange for advertising rights and they must be on top of adequate public funding, not in place of it," she added in a statement.

"The most alarming part of this proposal is the potential for companies which are threatening the reef to buy positive reef branding to try to avert the reputational damage they deserve."

Time Running Out For Great Barrier Reef

Waters said potentially letting coal companies sponsor the Great Barrier Reef "would be like letting tobacco companies sponsor hospitals".

Environment Minister Greg Hunt, speaking at the 41st meeting of the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Forum in Melbourne Tuesday, said while federal and state governments were working hard to preserve the World Heritage-listed icon and spending millions to do so, ways to diversify funding had to be explored.

He said the corporate sector, investors, philanthropic organisations and individuals could work in partnership on projects designed to improve the reef's health.

A pair of Common reef cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus) hovers above a patch of hard coral located on the Far Northern part of the Great Barrier Reef. With the ocean warming, rising, and becoming more acidic, coupled with land runoff, marine pollution and coastal development -- life in Australia's Great Barrier Reef is threatened from all sides and may be placed on the "in danger" designation for UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Can Australia meet the challenge to do a better job of protection by 2014? Here's some photos of what's at risk.

Clownfish protect their eggs hidden in a sea anemone on the Great Barrier Reef.

The most-loved Heart Reef among the Whitsunday Islands in the Great Barrier Reef is part of the protected off-limits areas to SCUBA divers and snorklers.

Three sea turtles in the Great Barrier Reef.

A flying gurnard (Dactyloptena orientalis), spreads out large pectorals to scare away enemies on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.

A ribbon eel in the Great Barrier Reef.

The poisonous blue-ringed octopus (Hapalochlaena lunulata) stalks prey among the coral.

The size isn't intimidating, but the deadly poison is; divers wear gloves to hold the blue-ringed octopus.

A black-blotched moray eel at home in the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia.

Christmas tree tube worms on the Great Barrier Reef.

The polyps on this stalk of Acropora echinata, a type of Staghorn coral, show vividly colored tips.

Many reefs around the world are threatened by bleaching, as sea temperatures become too warm and stress the corals. The high temperatures kill the colorful polyps, and leave a reef cemetery of coral skeletons.

Staghorn Coral release eggs and sperm in a mass spawning event on the Great Barrier Reef.

The head of a whale shark (Rhincodon typus), near Ningaloo Reef in West Australia - Indian Ocean. Whale sharks feed on the eggs and sperm released from coral during massive spawning events a few days after the full moon between October and December.

What goes in must come out. A sea cucumber (Thelnota ananas) leaves a trail of waste as it processes its food.

An olive sea snake explores Alcyonarian coral.

The head of an Ocellated Epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum), in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.

Sea level rise poses a real threat to many parts of Australia. Already increased coastal erosion as a result of sea level rise is evident, as here where trees have been undercut and toppled by erosion on Green Island off Cairns in Queensland, Australia.

A rusting anchor chain rests amid the skeletons of pieces of hard coral in the Great Barrier Reef. Marine pollution comes in many different forms, but always from human hands. Greater protection and awareness of human impact on the reef is critical.