Study shows link between dredging and coral disease

A LANDMARK new study has found dredging and dumping of sediment can double the risk of coral disease, renewing fears over a three million cubic metre spoil dumping proposal in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The study, by the Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University, has found the first concrete evidence linking turbidity and sedimentation to elevated levels of coral disease.

Based on analysis of the effects of a West Australian dredging project, it found the turbidity and sediment movement from dredging can as much as double the risk of disease for corals.

Co-author Joseph Pollock wrote the findings would have "direct implications for coastal managers charged with balancing economic development with the imperative to maintain healthy coral reefs".

He also highlighted the World Heritage Committee's concerns about dredging and dumping in and around the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Claims by the Queensland Government that their management of the reef is guided by science are now in tatters.

The revelations come after APN revealed last week that Environment Minister Greg Hunt directly intervened in the approval to dump dredge spoil at Abbot Point earlier this year.

The approval of that project by the marine park authority was prompted by a letter from Mr Hunt recommending the project be approved, against a raft of evidence before the marine park that is should not.

It also follows the continued controversy of dredging and dumping at Gladstone Harbour, inside the reef's World Heritage Area, which has already prompted two government inquiries.

Australian Marine Conservation Society reef campaign director Felicity Wishart said the latest study was consistent with the effects found after nine million cubic metres of spoil was dumped at Hay Point, near Mackay in 2006.

Ms Wishart said claims from the State Government and the Queensland mining industry that dredging was not threatening the reef had "no credibility".

"Claims by the Queensland Government that their management of the reef is guided by science are now in tatters," she said.

"This study confirms what most people understood which is that sediment from dredging damages coral."