During the unprecedented economic turmoil caused by COVID-19, Great Barrier Reef tourism businesses and workers have joined with the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) to demand climate action and reduce the scale of this mass coral bleaching event.
It is the latest in a string of blows to our tourism industry. Between the bushfire disaster, coronavirus and now widespread Reef bleaching, accommodation providers and tourism businesses are struggling to imagine how they will recover.
After the COVID-19 lockdown is over, surely our unique environment will be more appreciated and more important to Australians than ever? Federal Government needs to tackle this crisis once and for all.
Marine scientists agree that coal-fuelled climate change has caused the Great Barrier Reef to bleach for the third time in five years, with the latest attack devastating already struggling corals from far North Queensland to the southern Reef.
Head of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies, Professor Terry Hughes, said the scale of the destruction took researchers, who had been expecting “a relatively mild bleaching event” by surprise.
Greenpeace Australia Pacific Acting Program Director, Kate Smolski, said: “This is a coal-fired crisis that not only threatens the natural wonder that is the reef but also the many communities and tourism workers who depend on a healthy reef for their livelihoods which are already at risk from the coronavirus outbreak.”
Tanya Murphy from Divers for Reef Conservation said: “Our beautiful Reef not only sustains marine life, it supports thousands of tourism and hospitality jobs like mine, and in normal times, generates $6 billion for the Australian economy.
“When travel restrictions lift, the gorgeous natural world is going to help us heal and reconnect. We are going to need our Great Barrier Reef and the people who help us discover its wonders more than ever.
David Cazzulino, AMCS Great Barrier Reef campaigner, said: “This is climate change impacting our Reef from the north to the south. It shows the urgent need for Reef-safe climate policies to protect our Reef and the communities that love and rely on it.
“Tourism operators reveal the beauty of our iconic Great Barrier Reef to the world. We need to support them in the short and long term by demanding government policy that gets industries through this pandemic and sustains the Reef and their livelihoods long term. The only way to do that is take action to cut our emissions.
Cairns-based Deborah Dickson-Smith, from Diveplanit Travel said: “We love the Great Barrier Reef – it’s big, beautiful and diverse – and these bleaching surveys once again highlight the importance of tackling climate change to give it the best chance for the future.
“Prime tourist sites offshore from Port Douglas, Cairns and the Whitsundays have mercifully avoided severe bleaching, with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority saying corals in these areas should recover. This is good news as we look to the other side of this pandemic.
“But we know that our Reef is under serious threat from climate change and we need our leaders to put in place strong climate and energy policies to protect its future and that of our businesses.”
“It makes sense that governments provide short term support to help Reef businesses get through this tough time and long-term climate policies that give our Reef the best chance for the future for all our sakes.”
“Only bold action on climate change will give our Reef the best chance for the future. We need our Governments to deliver Reef-safe climate policies that phase out polluting fossil fuels and invest in job-rich projects to hasten the transition to renewable energy.”