Australia pledges $380M to restore, guard Great Barrier Reef

April 30 (UPI) — Australia will pledge nearly $380 million to help restore and protect the Great Barrier Reef, the largest marine investment the country has ever given.

Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced the investment Sunday — which includes nearly $44 million to stem the spread of the crown-of-thorn starfish, a poisonous coral-eating predator.

The money will also go toward improving water quality and scientific research, officials said.

“We’ll be improving the monitoring of the reef’s health and the measurement of its impacts,” Frydenberg said. “The more we understand about the reef, the better we can protect it.

“Millions of dollars will go into science and to better data management and to be able to test the impacts on the reef.”

The Great Barrier Reef is home to 400 types of coral and 1,500 species of fish — making it the world’s largest collection of coral reefs.

Scientists and environmentalists, though, warn that the plan may not be enough — as the reef already faces extensive coral bleaching, with climate change warming water temperatures and acidity.

Bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 devastated a 900-mile stretch of the reef. Only two other bleaching events have occurred in the last two decades, in 1998 and 2002.

Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek welcomed the extra funding, but said the government needs to focus on climate change.

“The biggest threat to the reef is climate change and we’ve got a government that continues to be hopelessly unable to take serious action,” Plibersek said.

Frydenberg said the reef supports about 64,000 jobs, is worth more than $6 billion to the local economy and attracts more than 2 million visitors a year.

Yesterday’s record-breaking $500m investment by the @TurnbullMalcolm Govt in the #GBR is an investment not only in the future of the #Reef, but also in jobs & our economy. It reinforces the environmental, economic, social & cultural importance of the Reef: Josh Frydenberg (@JoshFrydenberg) April 30, 2018