Tourism industry counters bad news
Massive coral bleaching event makes global headlines
THE grim news about the extent of the coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef north of Cairns is making headlines around the world.
On Monday night Professor Terry Hughes, convenor of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, went public with the results of his recent aerial survey of 4000km of reef.
Professor Hughes said 95 per cent of the northern Great Barrier Reef is severely bleached, with only four of the 520 reefs he surveyed showing no signs of bleaching.
“Almost every reef we flew across showed consistently high levels of bleaching, from the reef slope right up onto the top of the reef,” said Professor Hughes.
Professor Hughes predicts half of the affected corals could due during the phenomenon.
The story has appeared on the Wall Street Journal, UK Telegraph, the BBC, CBS News and the Daily Mail, and is trending on Facebook.
Local tourism operators and tourism authorities, vitally concerned for the prospects of the $6 billion industry which is an important employer in Port Douglas, this week sought to reassure their markets and stakeholders.
Tourism Port Douglas Daintree executive officer Tara Bennett said her organisation will be working hard to mitigate some “excessively negative and untrue comments” that have started to circulate.
“We will be looking at the messaging that is going out to ensure that potential visitors are assured the experience will be enjoyable,” said Ms Bennett.
“There’s no way 95 per cent of the reef off Port Douglas is severely bleached, it’s untrue.
“The reef fleets, the guys that are out there every day, are denying it’s happening.
“We are getting really mixed messages as to the level of bleaching that has occurred.
“We’re assessing the situation in collaboration with operators to ascertain what’s happening in our reef system.”
Tony Baker, chief executive officer of major Port Douglas and Cairns reef boat operator Quicksilver said the ghostly white areas are further north than most tourists travel.
“The areas where it is really bad is Lizard Island – we are seeing minimal, if any coral bleaching on our tourist sites,” said Mr Baker.
“On the flats and the surface coral there is paling reported but as you go deeper and the water temperature cools the reef is still healthy.”
Chris Jones, operations manager of Tropical Journeys which operates out of Port Douglas, said: “Yes, we have seen it [coral bleaching] a lot. The majority of it is in the shallows, anything above four metres of depth has been affected,” said Mr Jones.
“Talking with the crew everyone agrees that it is pretty consistently affected across all the reefs in the shallow water. I don’t know about ‘severely’, although it is concerning.”
Tourists snorkelling on Opal Reef this week