Reef threat grow­ing

In­creased GBR co­ral loss sparks alarm

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS - By Rory Sheav­ils

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

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