Stunned by the UNESCO recommendation Minister Ley may be but she ought to read her own department’s advice which makes it clear that mass coral bleaching on the reef is due primarily to increasing water temperatures, ie, global warming.
Here’s what it said in March this year:
Australia’s lead management agency for the Great Barrier Reef can confirm mass bleaching is occurring on the Great Barrier Reef, with very widespread bleaching detected.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is drawing on the most current information from in-water and aerial observations and building on the best available science and technology to understand current conditions.
With aerial surveys being completed this week, we will better understand the extent and severity of this bleaching event. Further analysis will continue over the coming weeks.
For the last two weeks, the Authority had an observer on the aerial surveys, which are being conducted by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.
While there has been some cooler weather of late, the heat accumulation, particularly through February, led to bleaching which is now being observed through aerial surveys.
So far, observations from the aerial surveys over the vast area of the Reef — some 344,000 square kilometres —are:
- Mostly confirming the worst bleaching is on reefs that suffered the highest heat stress this summer, which extended across large areas of the Reef.
- Detecting a wide variety of bleaching severity — ranging from no bleaching to the most severe category. Some southern areas of the Reef that had little or no bleaching in 2016 and 2017 have now experienced moderate or severe bleaching.
- Showing, importantly, key tourism reefs in the Northern and Central areas of the Reef experienced only moderate bleaching, from which most corals should recover.
- Detecting moderate and severe bleaching on coastal and mid-shelf reefs in the far north where the corals remaining after the 2016 and 2017 events are relatively heat-tolerant.
- Identifying pockets of the Reef that remain unaffected with healthy areas of reefs.
The Government can blame this move on the Chinese chair of the World Heritage Committee and bleat about not being warned but the reality is that greenhouse emissions are the main cause.
UNESCO warned Australia back in 2015 and since then there have been three more mass bleaching events on the reef.
Of course Australia’s emissions are not entirely to blame but we should be at the forefront of the push to reduce emissions, using words and actions to demand global action to protect reefs world-wide.
The’ gas-led recovery’ and promotion by the Government of more coal mining and coal-fired power do the opposite. Now the reef is at the mercy of the new deputy prime minister who can’t see a future in a clean economy. Nor, apparently the 64,000 jobs or the $6.4 billion the GBR brings to the economy each year.