Learning the HARD way...
I blame tourists for a lot of damage. Here's the test: If the fish are friendly, you can bet the coral will be trampled and in a poor state. If the fish are timid the coral is generally pristine. Having said that, tourists only descend en masse on a very small fraction of the reef overall. As for needing to go a long way offshore, that's because for most of the reef's length the "true" reefs are quite a way off shore. There are, however, many areas of healthy reef available to tourists a short run from the mainland in many places.I was there (Queensland) a few years back - land-based. You had to motor out for 1-2 hours to get to a halfway decent dive site (and I mean halfway decent, not great). I asked the locals and they said the inshore coral had been destroyed by agricultural runoff (nitrates and pesticides).
Much of the remainder of the reef was weakened, not destroyed. Ocean acidification is clearly having an impact, as well as (in some areas) pollutants dumped in the water - although some government action has been taken to reduce this.
And then, of course, there is the Crown of Thorns starfish which continues to do tremendous damage, and is a sadly familiar sight to a bubblehead like me (scuba diver)
I'm just scratching the surface - it's a complex problem, with no single root cause, but right now it seems like the perfect storm for many coral reefs worldwide.
That's not too far off the mark.I blame tourists for a lot of damage. Here's the test: If the fish are friendly, you can bet the coral will be trampled and in a poor state. If the fish are timid the coral is generally pristine. Having said that, tourists only descend en masse on a very small fraction of the reef overall. As for needing to go a long way offshore, that's because for most of the reef's length the "true" reefs are quite a way off shore. There are, however, many areas of healthy reef available to tourists a short run from the mainland in many places.
Coral Bleaching Taskforce documents most severe bleaching on record ? ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesAerial surveys of more than 500 coral reefs from Cairns to Papua New Guinea reveal that the most pristine section of the Great Barrier Reef is currently experiencing the worst, mass bleaching event in its history, with the overwhelming majority of reefs being ranked in the most severe bleaching category.
“This has been the saddest research trip of my life,” says Prof. Terry Hughes, convenor of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce. “Almost without exception, every reef we flew across showed consistently high levels of bleaching, from the reef slope right up onto the top of the reef. We flew for 4000km in the most pristine parts of the Great Barrier Reef and saw only four reefs that had no bleaching. The severity is much greater than in earlier bleaching events in 2002 or 1998.”
“Even more concerning, we haven’t yet found the southern limit of the bleaching,” explains Prof. Hughes. “We’ll be conducting further aerial surveys this week in the central Great Barrier Reef to identify where it stops. Thankfully, the southern Reef has dodged a bullet due to cloudy weather that cooled the water temperatures down.”
Multiple research vessels and island research stations are also documenting the coral bleaching, with in-water research confirming what is clearly seen from the air, that the majority of reefs north of Cairns are undergoing bleaching and that virtually all species of corals are being affected.
“We could see extensive bleaching even among the most robust ‘massive’ corals,” says James Kerry, Project Manager of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, who also participated in the aerial surveys. “The fact that these hardy species have also turned white shows just how severe summer conditions have become on the northern GBR.
“Residents we spoke to in Cape York were shocked by what they are seeing, telling us that they had never experienced anything like this before.”
“Scientists in the water are already reporting up to 50% mortality of bleached corals,” says Prof. Hughes, “but it’s still too early to tell just what the overall outcome will be. We will continue to conduct underwater surveys along the Great Barrier Reef in the coming months as the full impact of this mass bleaching event unfolds.”