Great Barrier Reef campaign sees Australian minister call for Ben and Jerry's boycott

The WWF has said it fears the Reef will be damaged by dredge spoil

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The Independent Online

An Australian Environment Minister has called on citizens to boycott the popular ice cream brand Ben and Jerry’s, after the firm began backing WWF’s campaign to save the Great Barrier Reef.

Earlier in April, Ben and Jerry’s withdrew its popular Phish Food flavour and handed out free ice creams across Australia, to raise awareness of the potential damage being caused to the reef.

Ben and Jerry's said the risks lie in a combination of intensive dredging, dumping, as well as the presence of mega-ports and shipping highways.

Queensland minister Andrew Powell called the project “propaganda” and said it had damaged the reputation of the reef, and jeopardised jobs and tourism in the area.

“Another company has signed up to the campaign of lies and deceit that's been propagated by WWF,” Powell said.

“The only people taking a scoop out of the reef are Ben and Jerry's and Unilever.

"If you understand the facts, you'd want to be boycotting Ben and Jerry's."

He added that he would outline his concerns in a letter to Unilever, the brand’s parent company.

However, Kalli Swaik, the ice cream firm's Australia brand manager, said: "Ben & Jerry's believes that dredging and dumping in world heritage waters surrounding the marine park area will be detrimental to the reef ecology.

"It threatens the health of one of Australia's most iconic treasures."

Fish are seen swimming around coral formations on January 15, 2012 in Lady Elliot Island, Australia. (Getty Images)

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Great Barrier Reef dredging threat

The campaign comes after 3 million cubic metres of dredge spoil were dumped in the marine park and World Heritage area in January, to enable the Abbott Point coal port expansion – a move approved by The Queensland and federal governments.

The government predicts 70 per cent of the spoil will settle on the seabed. 

But animal conservation charity WWF fear the spoil may get caught in currents and smother or poison the reefs just 40km away.

The CEO of WWF, Dermot O'Gorman, said the campaign reflected the concern of people around the world about how the reef is being managed.

"Ben & Jerry's' tour is a timely reminder that the world expects the Queensland and Australian governments to lift their game," he said.

Unesco is due to meet in June to consider the Australian government's progress in improving the management of the reef.

It's due to decide this year or next whether to list the reef as a world heritage site in danger.

Additional reporting by AP