Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Is the Reef a Canary?

By Bruce Key, member of WATCH  – Wodonga Albury Towards Climate Health

In 1992 I went snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef off Port Douglas.  We went fifty kilometres off shore to a location on the edge of the continental shelf.  The reef and the accompanying fish life were absolutely fabulous.  There was every colour of the rainbow, every form of hard and soft coral, thousands of very colourful fish and large clams with iridescent blue lips. It was one of the most memorable days of my life.

In July 2015 we went to exactly the same spot with the same company.  Within minutes my wife and I came to the same conclusion; the reef was awful, being colourless with very few fish.  It was bitterly disappointing.

It would be even worse now, because we recently had the worst coral bleaching event in history with 93% of the reef affected. The first bleaching event due to excessively warm water was in 1980 and there have been seven events since.

It is clear that the jobs of all those who depend on the reef are in danger. The 2013 report by Deloitte titled Economic Contributions of the Great Barrier Reef shows that the Great Barrier Reef supports 68,978 jobs

Writing an article such as this is going to hasten the demise of those jobs, which is why I have not done it earlier.  However, in March I hosted some overseas visitors who were then going to see the reef.  I advised them not to go, but they still went.  Recently I asked them what they thought of the reef; they said they were very disappointed.

That experience made me ask the ethical question: should we be helping to disguise the state of the reef to protect businesses and jobs, or should we advise thousands of tourists to avoid wasting their money on something that is no longer worth seeing? In the past I was happy to travel thousands of kilometres to see the reef.  I would not cross the street to see it now. The experts claim that climate change is the biggest culprit.

Is the reef the canary in the coal mine?

Google “Why is the reef dying” to find out more.