Coral Bleaching Risk Increasing for the Mackay Whitsunday Region

Bleached_coral._Photograph_supplied_by_the_Australian_Marine_Conservation_Society.pngThe devastating coral bleaching event of 2016 may be returning in 2017. 

Current ocean conditions have reef scientists worried that we may see serious coral bleaching later this year, particularly in the Mackay/Whitsunday region. 

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), eastern Australia waters are unusually warm, increasing the risk of bleaching. 

NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch website indicates that the Mackay/Whitsunday region is likely to experience Alert Level One (bleaching likely) and Alert Level Two (mortality likely) over the next 4 to 8 weeks. (See NOAA chart below showing warning alerts and areas that are most at risk.) 

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is already fielding bleaching reports from Mackay in the south right up to the far north This is causing concern and many reef scientists fear another major coral bleaching event.

Just last year, the Reef suffered the most devastating coral bleaching event in history, with 22% of the Reef dying. 

The majority of the bleaching occurred in the far north section of the Reef. 

“The majority of Great Barrier Reef tourism takes place in the southern two-thirds of the Reef, from Port Douglas south”, said Tony Fontes, spokesperson for the Mackay Conservation Group. 

“We got lucky last year as the majority of serious bleaching occurred in the northern third of the Reef, having little effect on tourism. Reef tourism is worth nearly $6 billion annually and supports close to 69,000 jobs. Can you imagine the impact a major bleaching event would have if Cairns or the Whitsundays bleached?” 

“People and government need to wake up to this very real possibility. Coral bleaching is caused by global warming which is fueled by the burning of fossil fuels like coal. If we don’t curb global warming soon, the Reef will continue to bleach.” 

“Australia has a responsibility to the Reef and to the world to set an example and reduce our carbon emissions. This can be done sensibly by transitioning to renewable energy and leaving the coal in the ground.”

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