At its annual meeting in June, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee did not add new marine sites to its World Heritage List. However, it did address concerns about two sites that are already inscribed:
• East Rennell, Solomon Islands: This site - part-terrestrial, part-marine - was added to the List of World Heritage in Danger due to substantial commercial logging activity in East Rennell's forests. The danger listing is intended to serve as a "wake-up call" to the international conservation community and the Solomon Islands, indicating the need to preserve the site's outstanding universal value, says Fanny Douvere, Coordinator of the World Heritage Marine Programme. She notes the World Heritage Centre has financed the first survey of East Rennell's marine portion, which will provide a baseline for the analysis of conservation efforts. Fishing activity in the park is increasing, she says.
• Great Barrier Reef, Australia: One of the most iconic MPAs in the world remains under threat of being added to the List of World Heritage in Danger, due to plans in the region for significant new coastal development, including large ports and liquefied natural gas facilities. As described in MPA News, the World Heritage Centre has mandated that the Australian and Queensland governments develop and apply a highly precautionary process to consideration of coastal development proposals (MPA News 14:1). The Centre wants to ensure that no port development is permitted outside of existing major port areas along the reef. "The proposed developments haven't happened yet but still could," says Douvere. "The Australian and Queensland governments must come up with a strategic plan for long-term sustainability of the Great Barrier Reef." The Great Barrier Reef site will have to report its progress to the World Heritage Centre in February 2014. In the absence of "substantial" progress, the site could be inscribed on the danger list next year.
For more information including documents and decisions on individual marine World Heritage sites, visit the World Heritage Marine Programme at http://whc.unesco.org/en/marine-programme/.
Note: The latest report card on Great Barrier Reef water quality was released on 10 July. Report Card 2011 says the reef's condition declined "from moderate to poor" in 2011 due to extreme weather events and high rainfall. The report is at www.reefplan.qld.gov.au/measuring-success/report-cards/report-card-2011.aspx.