Co­ral: the good and bad

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - Moya Stevens

MORE than 60 lo­cals heard the bit­ter sweet up­date re­gard­ing co­ral bleach­ing at a pub­lic fo­rum held by the Lo­cal Ma­rine Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee last Tues­day at the Clink Theatre.

Dr Roger Bee­den from the Great Bar­rier Reef Ma­rine Park Au­thor­ity gave a de­tailed re­port of the state of the reef, stress­ing that although 93 per cent of the reefs have been “af­fected by some bleach­ing, this does not nec­es­sar­ily mean they are dead”.

“The crit­i­cal thing to note is that aerial sur­veys can­not de­ter­mine the dif­fer­ence be­tween live and dead co­ral,” Dr Bee­den said, “and it takes about four weeks of tem­per­a­ture stress for co­ral to start go­ing white, and 8 weeks of con­tin­ued stress be­fore they die.”

Dr Bee­den ex­plained that there are three fac­tors that can lead to death of co­ral be­cause of bleach­ing.

“It is not just the tem­per­a­ture that causes bleach­ing – it is also light and nu­tri­ents, and when these things get out of bal­ance, we see the reef in stress.

“Be­cause of cli­mate change, we are see­ing more tem­per­a­ture stress now.

“We are also see­ing less cy­clone ac­tiv­ity and there­fore less cloud and there­fore more light and heat,” he said.

“Ac­cord­ing to the Bureau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy, Jan­uary to March this year were the hottest tem­per­a­tures on record since 1900 along this part of the Queens­land coast.

“We can all get to the point of doom and gloom – it’s all over, it’s all dead,” he said, “but no it isn’t.

“The reef ac­tu­ally has a heck of a lot of re­silience, we just need to do the best that we can to pro­tect it.”

Other speak­ers were Brian Don­nelly from Cairns Ma­rine and Scott Firth from the As­so­ci­a­tion of Ma­rine Park Tourism Op­er­a­tors who echoed the sen­ti­ments of Dr Bee­den on the need to ad­dress cli­mate change.

Ques­tions from the floor were mainly con­cerned with with how to bal­ance the neg­a­tive me­dia and re­sult­ing ef­fect on tourism with le­git­i­mate con­cerns over the health of the reef and cli­mate change.

Lo­cal LMAC head Robert Hanan and re­gional LMAC boss Doon McColl said they were pleased with the at­ten­dance and thought it had been well worth it.

Pic­ture: MOYA STEVENS

Robert Hanan (left) com­peres the co­ral bleach­ing fo­rum

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