ON THE SOAP­BOX Pol­lu­tion is the prob­lem for reef

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - LETTERS -

CY­CLONES and crown of thorns starfish have never been a se­ri­ous threat to the Great Bar­rier Reef - pol­lu­tion is.

Back in the early ’70s when we had the worst ever out­break of the crown of thorns plague and the press were say­ing the Great Bar­rier Reef will be de­stroyed within a few years, I was the first to speak out that this was not go­ing to hap­pen, that it was a cyclic phe­nom­e­non and the corals would grow back within a few years.

At the sub­se­quent royal com­mis­sion into the plague, ev­ery sci­en­tist agreed with my sub­mis­sion.

There is no plague hap­pen­ing now.

I re­mem­ber how dev­as­tated Michael­mas Reef was af­ter that big plague in the early ’70s and how within five years it was al­most back to nor­mal and look­ing good.

The only threat is if a plague hap­pens on a pop­u­lar div­ing reef and the starfish should be re­moved from that reef so the corals will still look nice for the tourists, and leave the non-vis­ited reefs alone.

The same with cy­clones, they do dam­age the reef but it quickly grows back within a few years. Cy­clone Yasi was huge and the dam­age was huge, so this will take longer for the corals to re­ju­ve­nate, but Yasi was a one- off.

The starfish and cy­clone dam­age ac­tu­ally helps the reef to grow. They break down the more frag­ile corals, the staghorns and plate corals, into rub­ble that builds up the reef and al­lows a more di­ver­si­fied hard corals to take their place.

Pol­lu­tion has been and will continue to be the big­gest killer of co­ral reefs, and is the ma­jor de­struc­tor of co­ral reefs around the world, along with overde­vel­op­ment and over-fish­ing.

The worst pol­lu­tion is sew­er­age, the sec­ond is land run- off of soils and fer­tilis­ers that smother and kill the corals and al­lows al­gae to take over.

Most in­shore co­ral reefs around the world and here are mostly dead be­cause of this.

Our sav­ing grace for the Great Bar­rier Reef is it is well off­shore and very lit­tle pol­lu­tion reaches it and it is still in good con­di­tion.

How­ever, mas­sive dredg­ing at Glad­stone and soon at Cairns does de­stroy the corals of the in­ner reef and tur­bid­ity can reach up to more than 30 miles off­shore and spoil the view­ing of the reef by divers.

This has hap­pened at Heron Is­land where back in the ’ 80s the wa­ter clar­ity dropped to half be­cause of the Glad­stone har­bour dredg­ing.

Most un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­phers used to go to Heron Is­land but when the vis­i­bil­ity dropped they started to come up here to Cairns and Port Dou­glas. Now this prob­lem may hap­pen here.

A good ex­am­ple of pol­lu­tion here, sim­i­lar to around the world, is at Low Isle.

I’ve been vis­it­ing Low for 40 years and wit­nessed the de­cline in hard corals in the la­goon an­chor­ing area.

This has been caused by sew­er­age from boats and sep­tic sew­er­age from the three houses there that leached through the por­ous lime­stone onto the corals.

While both have stopped now, the dam­age re­mains. Also the runoff from the Dain­tree River floods has de­posited nu­tri­ents over the corals and helped to kill them.

To­day, 70 per cent of these la­goon corals are dead and cov­ered by soft corals,

I have wit­nessed this slow de­cline over 40 years. For­tu­nately the seaward corals are healthy, washed by clean cur­rents, but the tourists rarely swim there.

Please let’s put the money and re­search into the pol­lu­tion prob­lem.

An­other big prob­lem may ex­ist in the break­down of the huge plas­tic rub­bish float­ing out there, and when it fi­nally breaks down into minute par­ti­cles it could be eaten by the plank­ton and even the co­ral polyps and would kill them.

Re­search is needed for this one as it could be ma­jor and ef­fect the whole food chain.

Per­son­ally, I would like to see all plas­tic bot­tles banned. We don’t need to buy drink­ing wa­ter when we have good wa­ter from the tap, un­like in Asian coun­tries.

If peo­ple saw the huge piles of plas­tic bot­tles along our north­ern beaches they would be hor­ri­fied, and 90 per cent comes from our main­land, not for­eign ves­sels.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.