In the state of Queensland, Australia, hard-won environmental protections are under threat.
In April this year, Queensland elected a new government that is pro-development and pro-mining. These activities have been burgeoning over the past few years, prompting the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to investigate whether the Great Barrier Reef should be included on the List of World Heritage in Danger (see http://whc.unesco.org/en/documents/117104).
The government is also moving to dismantle the Wild Rivers Act, which was designed to protect and manage Queensland's last remaining pristine rivers and catchments in Cape York. These rivers have the richest diversity of freshwater fish in Australia, including the sawfish Pristis microdon and the speartooth shark Glyphis glyphis. These are considered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature to be critically endangered and endangered, respectively. Australia is one of the last countries in the world where populations of these fish are viable.
Ministers have nevertheless declared that a regional plan for Cape York will “unashamedly” fast-track development and “absolutely” secure a place for mining in these areas (see go.nature.com/e6hbzc).
These threats to Australia's aquatic environment are being compounded by government cuts to staff in environmental and fisheries management across public institutions.
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Chin, A., White, J. & Dulvy, N. Environment in Queensland at risk. Nature 490, 176 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/490176d
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