Skip Beef for the Reef

Skip Beef for the Reef

Australia’s beautiful Great Barrier Reef is in bad shape, with coral cover having declined up to 53% over the last 30 years.¹

This is largely due to the fact that there are approximately 4.5 million cattle grazing in the Great Barrier Reef catchment area. Grazing has led to extensive clearing of vegetation, widespread soil erosion, and increased nutrient and phosphate materials ending up in the water – along with fertilisers, herbicides, and pesticides.

The land is crumbling under the feet of too many cows, and when it rains the nutrient rich soil is washed out to sea.

Fine silt from extensive soil erosion is covering the coral and choking it of sunlight. And increased nitrogen levels are leading to crown of thorns starfish outbreaks, which eat and kill live coral.

What’s being done about it?

Declining water quality is one of the key threats to the reef, and experts agree better management of harmful run-off will enable the ecosystem to become more resilient to climate change.² 

In 2003 the Australian and Queensland governments designed a Reef Water Quality Protection Plan (Reef Plan), including strategies and actions to ‘to halt and reverse the decline in water quality entering the GBR by 2013’. 

This plan was revised in 2009 and 2013. The goal in 2013 was ‘to ensure that by 2020 the quality of water entering the reef from broadscale land use has no detrimental impact on the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef’. Though some measurable success was made, it soon became clear this target was not going to be met.³

In August 2017 a new draft plan and set of targets were decided upon as part of the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (Reef 2050 Plan). The new plan promises to reduce dissolved inorganic nitrogen by up to 80%, and cut sediment run off by 50% in priority areas by 2025.

Whether or not these new targets will be met is a different story.

What can you do to help?

We need strong and decisive action to save our beautiful Great Barrier Reef, but politicians are dragging their feet and failing to meet target after target.

That means it is up to US to take action to protect this fragile natural icon. And there are two things you can do right now to help.

1. Pledge to ‘Skip Beef for the Reef’.

By reducing your red meat intake and pledging to Skip Beef for the Reef, you can help lower demand and reduce the strain of intensive cattle farming on our beautiful Great Barrier Reef.

Not sure where to start? Need help keeping track of your meat consumption?

Click here to download Less Meat Less Heat’s ‘Climatarian Challenge’ app to track your meat intake, and lower the carbon footprint of your diet.



2. Demand political action.

You can also let politicians responsible for protecting the reef know they simply cannot continue to set targets, just to lower the bar and change them again every few years.

The time has come to set strong goals, and take real action to meet them.

Click here to email the QLD Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Leeanne Enoch.

Let the Minister know you want decisive action to protect the reef from harmful agricultural run-off, and stricter regulations on the number of cattle allowed to graze in Great Barrier Reef catchment areas.



  1. De’ath, G., Fabricius, K.E., Sweatman, H., & Puotinen, M., (2012), “The 27-year decline of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef and its causes”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 109, no. 44, pp. 17995-17999
  2. Waterhouse, J., Brodie, J.E., Lewis, S., & Mitchell, A., (2012), “Quantifying the sources of pollutants in the Great Barrier Reef catchments and the relative risk to reef ecosystems”, Marine Pollution Bulletin, vol. 65, no. 4-9, pp. 394-406
  3. Waterhouse, J., Brodie, J.E., Lewis, S., & Audas, D.M., (2016), “Land-sea connectivity, ecohydrology and holistic management of the Great Barrier Reef and its catchments: time for a change”, Ecohydrology & Hydrobiology, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 45-57

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