Conservation group calls for urgent action to prevent future coral bleaching

Media Release

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.

BleachedAcropora_MagneticIsland_March2020_KlaraLindstrom.jpgOver 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.”

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Irwin's Turtle - We could lose it without really knowing it

A person holding an Irwin's TurtleOne of Mackay’s unique species is Irwin’s Turtle. Back in 1990 the famous naturalist Steve Irwin and his father Bob were fishing near the Bowen River when Bob spotted an unusual white headed turtle. They caught one, photographed it and returned it to the wild. Later the pair sent the photos to experts for identification. It turned out the turtle they found had never been recorded by scientists.

Irwin’s Turtle is very good at hiding from scientists. It took another three years before a second was found and a proper identification made. The scientists who described the turtle named it Elseya irwini in honour of the pair who first alerted the scientific community to its existence.

Irwin’s Turtle has a very limited range, perhaps only 25 square kilometres in total. It inhabits the Bowen River and tributaries such as Urannah Creek where the water is clean and free flowing. These turtles require well oxygenated water and sandy banks to survive.

Irwin’s Turtle has evolved in isolation for 150 million years. We have known it for less than 30 and we could wipe it out in a decade. Very little is known about Irwin’s Turtle’s life cycle or the extent of its habitat, yet we may send it to extinction by building a dam on Urannah Creek.

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Tell the Government to fund the future of our Reef

image of Tell the Government to fund the future of our Reef!

Photo credit: The Ocean Agency / XL Catlin Seaview Survey / Richard Vevers. 

 

A decline in water quality is one of the leading threats to the Great Barrier Reef, and is preventing the Reef from building resilience to other threats such as climate change.  

The Reef is being smothered in chemicals and sediment from the surrounding polluted water, caused by industrial, agricultural and urban development.  This is leading to a severe decline in Reef health and resilience. 

Reports have concluded that an investment of $8.2 bn is needed over the next decade to fix the water quality issues.  Yet, over the course of 5 years, the Australian and Queensland Governments are jointly investing only about $120 million a year in Reef water quality improvements.

We are therefore asking the Governments to invest $1bn for projects throughout Great Barrier Reef catchments to help improve the quality of water.  This seems like a big ask, but it’s an important investment in protecting the more than A$5 billion that the Reef generates for the Australian economy every year, alongside the other crucial roles the Reef plays in the environment, both locally and globally.

Please sign this petition asking the State and Federal Governments to allocate funds for much needed water quality projects.

https://mackayconservationgroup.good.do/reefwaterqualitycampaign/reefwaterqualitycampaign/

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Time to Stop Rubbishing Our Oceans

Tomorrow (June 8) is World Oceans Day, so it’s time to consider the big blue bits that cover 70 per cent of our Earth’s surface. We know that our oceans are being damaged by human activity including overfishing, mining and dumping of waste. Together we can protect and restore our oceans.

Plastic waste is accumulating in huge garbage patches that will remain in the oceans for decades or even centuries. The garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean is almost as big as Queensland. There are over 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the world’s oceans, that’s more than 600 items for every single human alive today. 

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New water laws will protect the reef

For decades Queensland’s sugar cane farmers have been throwing money into the creeks and rivers that flow past their properties. That’s the money spent on excess fertiliser that runs off during heavy rain and makes its way to the ocean. It’s estimated that three quarters of nitrogen fertiliser put on cane farms leaches from the soil within a few months of application.

When nitrogen and phosphorus fertiliser enters rivers and ends up in the Reef, it upsets the natural balance of the marine environment. Algae love nitrogen and phosphorus. In a high nutrient environment algae can then become so numerous that the sunlight that normally reaches the sea floor can no longer do so. That means seagrass and other light dependent bottom-dwelling organisms have trouble growing and reproducing. Crown of Thorns starfish that destroy hard corals also love nitrogen and that’s one of the reasons they are in such large numbers on the Reef at present.

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Poor Water Quality Continues to Plague Reef

The latest Mackay-Whitsunday Waterway Health report card continues to highlight the region’s poor water quality despite years of effort and millions of dollars to clean it up. Regulations will be required to improve water quality and protect the Great Barrier Reef.  pioneer-river.jpg

The Mackay Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership which includes members from 22 organisations representing the community, industry, research groups and government has recently released their waterway health report card for the 2014 – 15 year for our region. You can download a copy of the 2015 Report Card here  

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Healthy Rivers to Reef Info Session

Healthy_Rivers_to_Reef_Partnership_Logo.pngThe Great Barrier Reef is being threatened from many fronts. Climate change, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, disease outbreaks, extreme weather, shipping, ghost nets, rubbish and introduced species are all stressing the reef. The reef is also being stressed by large quantities of nutrients and sediments flowing into its waters from coastal streams.

5489466-3x2-940x627.jpgThe Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership has been formed to identify water quality problems in rivers from Bowen to Hay Point. The partnership aims to ensure that rivers and streams are properly managed to reduce the flow of pollutants into the reef.

On Wednesday 6 July at 6pm we will be hosting an information session about the partnership to introduce the partnership and the most recent report card on our waterways. Di Tarte and Charlie Morgan will explain how the report card has been developed and how the project will proceed in the future.

If you are concerned about the health of the reef and our waterways, please come along to this meeting.

6pm - 7pm Wednesday 6 July 2016

Mackay Environment Centre, 156 Wood St Mackay

RSVP at mackayconservationgroup.org.au/healthy_rivers

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Tell Australian Banks not to risk the Reef!

Right now, Australia's big banks are deciding whether to put their money into Abbot Point; a project that would result in 3million cubic, metres of dredge spoil being dumped in the Marine Park. 

The banks must be made aware of the community concerns and the impacts of sea dumping on our Reef, the $6 billion tourism industry, jobs, and our way of life. We have launched a petition calling on Australian Banks not to invest in the Abbot Point expansion – you can sign the petition here.

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