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The Great Barrier Reef could be stripped of its world heritage status within months if action isn't taken to better protect the natural icon from coal and gas developments, environment groups say.
A coalition of green groups today launched the Fight for the Reef campaign in Canberra, warning state and federal politicians were putting the reef's international reputation at risk.
Last year UNESCO was "sufficiently concerned" enough by proposed developments along the Queensland coast it sent a mission to Australia to investigate, the campaign's director Felicity Wishart said.
It made a number of recommendations to the commonwealth and Queensland governments about how to proceed in the best interests of the reef.
The global heritage body could place the reef - the world's longest coral reef system - on the "world heritage in danger" list if it doesn't receive an adequate response by February.
Ms Wishart said such action would be an international embarrassment that threatened both the reef ecosystem and the $6 billion tourism industry it supports.
"The reef has an international reputation, it is loved globally," she told AAP.
"That's a really alarming international black mark that we could be tracking towards if we don't lift our game."
She said the campaign, formed by the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund, had written to all the major parties in a bid to get the reef on the 2013 election agenda.
At the centre of their concerns are 45 major industrial developments proposed for the coast, including large-scale coal and gas projects that would boost shipping over the reef.
Currently, around 4000 ships make "port calls" through the reef every year, but that number could skyrocket to 7000 if the proposals go ahead unchallenged, the campaign group warns.
The main concern is that the government, which has a "proud track record" of defending the reef, wasn't now taking this issue seriously, Ms Wishart said.
"We're calling on all sides of politics to step up and commit to greater protection for what is the most significant natural icon that Australia has," she said.
"This is something that has to be beyond politics."
The Great Barrier Reef was granted world heritage status in 1981, but has since faced numerous threats from coral bleaching to cyclones, runoff, Crown-of-thorns starfish and commercial activity.