All bleached out?
The truth about the Whitsunday's coral reefs
WE HEAR it all the time – our coral is bleached and the Great Barrier Reef is dying. But on the other hand we’re told bleaching is at its worst in northern sections of the reef, with the condition of our coral improving the further south we go. So what really is the truth about the Whitsundays’ coral reefs? Inside today, we bring you: Accounts from the operators who visit the reef Up-to-date photos from our dive sites A scientist’s view on the condition of coral in our region A warning not to be complacent about one of our greatest natural treasures
THERE’S no denying it, coral bleaching is an international issue.
But here in the Whitsundays, our operators explain the reef is still beautiful.
Mantaray Charters dive instructor John Bissell said he had seen bleached coral, but the vast majority remained untouched.
“It’s still beautiful, it’s still lovely,” he said.
“There may just be the odd coral head that’s sort of starting to bleach and occasionally there’s the odd patches.”
Whitsunday Escape managing director Trevor Rees said his customers remained in awe of the reef’s beauty.
“I haven’t had any of our customers reporting any issues in the Whitsundays, but they may not know what to look for either,” he said.
Great Barrier Reef Divers spokesperson Tony Fontes has extensive experience on the reef, saying some areas are more bleached than others.
“(In some areas) I had to look close to find any bleaching at all, but I’ve been to sites where you don’t have to look close,” he said.
“(Visitors) aren’t going to see reef that’s bleached.
“That could certainly happen further north, but not here.”
Mr Fontes said the reef was still very much open for business and tourists would still get the full Great Barrier Reef experience.
“They’re not going to come here and be disappointed any more this year than last year because the bleaching has been relatively low key,” he said.
“It might be a different story if they went further north.”
Tourism Whitsundays chairman Al Grundy said we had dodged a bullet during the most recent bleaching event.
“We have been very fortunate that our reefs have not been greatly impacted by bleaching,” he said.
“The rain with cloud cover in early April cooled water temperatures by a few degrees.”
This certainly doesn’t mean we should become complacent however.
“When you see photographs of the bleaching in far north Queensland it is a worry obviously because we don’t want that to happen here,” Mr Bissell said.
“The main message is that if you visit the reef, just respect it.”
Mr Fontes agreed, saying we needed to take a global and local approach.
“To pretend there is no bleaching, I don’t think that’s any good,” he said.
“It’s a big picture and the actions have to focus on the big picture, which is climate change.
“We need to start improving the water quality, which basically means regulating what comes off the land.”
DEEP BLUE: Coral bleaching has become a major talking point along Queensland’s coast, but how do things really stand in the Whitsundays?
The coral reefs between Tongue Bay and the northern tip of Hook Island remain a riot of colour. Photo: Ocean Rafting.
Luncheon Bay remains a colourful paradise. Photo: Dmitriy Komarov / Mantaray Charters.
Visitors to Luncheon Bay will still see all the beautiful coral colours. Photo: Dmitriy Komarov / Mantaray Charters.
Bleached coral at Bali Hai Reef. Photo Dr Tyrone Ridgway.