Our Thoughts (and Actions) on
“Is the Reef Dying?”
“Is the Great Barrier Reef dying?” is one of the most frequently asked questions we get by our
student groups and their teachers. The answer? Yes and no. It’s complicated. It depends on who you
talk to. In short: researchers and scientists get funding if they raise environmental alarm
bells; reef tour operators keep their business if they downplay the seriousness of the threat.
But all agree: the reef needs care and it needs hope. Here’s some bad news
and good news:
05 March 2020
The Bad News
Thanks to climate change, the global bleaching events of 2016 and 2017 also caused a good portion of the Great Barrier Reef to bleach. Bleaching means the coral is stressed, but not dead. Although bleaching doesn’t always lead to death, it is an indication of an unhealthy reef system, and that it is likely that the coral will die.
The Great Barrier Reef was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981 and is considered by many to be one of the Wonders of the World. It is the world’s largest living structure, and it is the biggest coral reef system on the planet. And it is threatened.
One of the main threats to the Great Barrier Reef includes coral death which is caused by the warming oceans due to climate change.
The Good News
Enter Reef Restoration Foundation (RRF).
This savvy team created a not-for-profit social enterprise and established the very first ocean-based coral nursery at the Great Barrier Reef. Its purpose was to regenerate damaged coral reefs in December 2017 at Fitzroy Island.
Cuttings of resilient corals (those that survived the two recent bleaching events) were harvested from a nearby reef and attached to coral tree frames—with the process of cutting actually accelerating the growth of the corals.
Small World Journeys is a sponsor of one of these trees of hope. Established at Fitzroy Island’s reef in July 2018, the coral cuts grew well, and already 37 corals have been planted back onto the reef.
It’s through these innovative coral reef restoration techniques that we are seeing optimism for the reef’s future.