24 April 2020
Mackay Conservation Group is mobilising the local community to speak out about climate change and its devastating impact on the Great Barrier Reef.
Over the past five years the Reef has experienced three major coral bleaching events. The most recent coral bleaching happened over the past month and was the most widespread yet seen. Persistent or prolonged bleaching can lead to the death of coral.
Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Professor Terry Hughes, said in a media statement earlier this month “For the first time, severe bleaching has struck all three regions of the Great Barrier Reef – the northern, central and now large parts of the southern sectors.”
Widespread coral reef bleaching is linked to extremely hot sea temperatures caused by climate change. In February sea surface temperatures were the hottest on record.
For the first time ever, many reefs offshore from Mackay suffered from severe bleaching during the 2020 event.
Whitsunday diver instructor, Tony Fontes, said “I am confident that Reef tourism will survive the COVID pandemic. It won’t be easy and many individual operators probably won’t make it.
“But beyond this pandemic, our continued survival is entirely dependent on a healthy Great Barrier Reef, and a healthy Reef is something that we can no longer take for granted.”
Mackay Conservation Group is mobilising public support for action to protect the reef. The group has written to over 1000 local residents, calling on them to email members of parliament and raise their concerns about reef bleaching.
Mackay Conservation Group coordinator, Peter McCallum, said “Like people all around the world, Mackay residents love the Reef. We are really lucky to have the Great Barrier Reef right here on our doorstep but that also means we have a special responsibility to protect it.
“We want the Queensland Government to act urgently to protect the reef. That means never opening another thermal coal mine in this state and winding back the operation of existing thermal coal mines.
“We must use our natural advantage in energy production from renewables, especially solar, and create new export industries that help the world move away from coal-fired electricity production.
“Queensland can be a world leader in the hydrogen economy that will power the world for generations to come. That industry needs government support.”
Mackay Conservation Group has created a website for people to easily send an email to their MP at mackayconservationgroup.good.do/coral-bleaching/Coral-Bleaching/