Reef threat growing
Increased GBR coral loss sparks alarm
AUTHORITIES monitoring the Great Barrier Reef are concerned about the increasing pace of coral bleaching.
The threat level was recently increased from one to two following the discovery of widespread loss of coral in the north, particularly around Lizard Island.
Increasing water temperatures are pushing the coral beyond its ideal climatic conditions, causing increasing coral death.
Local diving operator and Great Barrier Reef Divers spokesman Tony Fontes said people shouldn’t be fooled by the reef’s magnitude.
“It is easy to think that the GBR is indestructible and will be around forever,” he said.
“It is huge, diverse and has been around for millions of years.
“But that myth was shattered back in 1998 when the reef was hit with the first reefwide bleaching event, including the Whitsundays.”
The news comes on the back of a report from NASA showing global surface temperatures had their biggest month-on-month rise on record in February.
Mr Fontes said the increas- ing temperature was a global threat but one we were seeing the impacts of on a local level.
“We are seeing bleaching here in the Whitsundays around the islands and on the outer reef,” he said.
Pointing to a similar bleaching event in 2002, Mr Fontes said they were “becoming more frequent”.
“Corals that bleach in one event don’t have time to regenerate before the next event,” he said.
“Taken to the obvious conclusion, we are going to lose a lot of reef.”
Mr Fontes said apart from the environmental concerns, local jobs were at stake if the reef was destroyed.
“Our local economy here in the Whitsundays is entirely dependent on a healthy reef,” he said.
“All the recent town plans and airport expansions will be for naught if we don’t look after the reef.”
WHITE OUT: A diver inspects a bleached portion of the Great Barrier Reef.
Photo: XL Catlin Seaview Survey