The Australian Greens said today that new research has highlighted the risk posed to WA's coral reefs by dredging works undertaken as part of oil, gas and port operations.
"The latest study from James Cook University has examined the impacts of dredging associated with development at Barrow Island, and it shows a doubling of coral diseases," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens marine spokesperson said today.
"The report links stresses on the coral to incidences of disease and ill-health. Increased silt and sediment from dredging cuts down on light, makes it harder for coral to feed and forces it to expend more energy keeping itself clean, all of which increases stress.
"This study also notes increases in bleaching and sediment necrosis, on top of the doubling of disease rates. Reefs are already under threat from pollution and climate change, in the form of ocean warming, acidification and invasive species, and now we learn that the impacts of dredging are more significant than previously thought.
"We cannot ignore the fact that port developments harm reefs and our marine environment, and may not be as localised as previously thought. This new report shows the risk of resource expansion and the development of new sites, including those in the Kimberley.
"We need to take a much more cautious approach to dredging and to invest more in studying the impact of activities such as dredging, before more irreparable damage is done.
"This research again underscores the need for a strong network of marine protected areas around our coast, so that our reefs and other marine life is not put at risk," Senator Siewert concluded.