Report: Dredging puts Great Barrier Reef under threat

THE impact of dredging near the Great Barrier Reef could be much worse than industry or the government is making out, a report from an environmental group has claimed.

A report commissioned by the Australian Marine Conservation Society on dredging released on Tuesday claimed the reef's World Heritage area was "under threat" from dredging.

The report was released to counter claims from the mining and ports industry, backed by the State Government, that dredging did not damage the reef.

While the report has not been peer-reviewed, the AMCS said it was compiled from findings from other existing scientific reports including the marine park authority.

It claimed that dredging eradicated seagrass and marine animals "living in the dredge area" and that plumes created by dredging was "often underestimated by industry".

AMCS reef campaign director Felicity Wishart said claims that 8.3 million cubic metres of dredging at hay Point port in 2006 did not lead to long-term environmental damage were "not credible".

"The monitoring ceased six months after dredging stopped when corals were still covered in sediment and suffering with lesions.

"In the monitoring report, corals with dead patches were grouped together with coral that had no damage at all, obscuring the fact that these corals were damaged."

Ms Wishart said there was also an inherent conflict over dredging near the reef, with state governments both the proponents (as port owner) and regulators, of some such projects.

"This report highlights that the industrialisation of the Reef's coast through expanded ports will continue to cause environmental damage to the Reef if it goes ahead," she said.

The release of the report follows a report on dredging released by port lobby group Ports Australia two weeks ago, which claimed dredging had little impacts on the reef.

However, that report, which found monitoring to be largely in line with regulations, was also not peer-reviewed by scientists.