Media Release Fight For Our Reef

75% of Great Barrier Reef now bleached

April 6, 2024
  • 50% of reefs surveyed suffering high to very high bleaching
  • 10% suffering extreme bleaching, according to aerial survey data
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority released data late yesterday while CEO and government Reef envoy in Paris lobbying UNESCO

A startling three-quarters of the Great Barrier Reef has been bleached in the current mass coral bleaching event, according to aerial survey data released by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority yesterday.

Half of the reefs surveyed are suffering high to very high bleaching, while 10% of the reefs are suffering from extreme bleaching. All the reefs in the southern section are showing high to extreme bleaching. The reefs in the central section are showing very high bleaching, and many of the mid-shelf reefs from Innisfail to Cape Melville are high to extreme bleaching.

Coral bleaching is caused by marine heatwaves, which are increasing in intensity and duration with climate changes. Sea temperatures this summer have been up to 2.5°C above the long-term average throughout the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, terrifyingly illustrated in this NASA map. Parts of the southern reef have experienced prolonged elevated water temperatures.

AMCS Great Barrier Reef Campaign Manager Dr Lissa Schindler said: “It’s alarming how extensive and severe this current coral bleaching event is – the fifth mass bleaching in just eight years. Three-quarters of the Great Barrier Reef has been bleached, with 60% of reefs surveyed showing high to extreme levels of bleaching. 

“All the reefs in the southern section are showing high to extreme bleaching, from inshore reefs close to the coast to offshore reefs way out to sea.

“This is a severe bleaching event, probably the worst we have seen since 2016. We need urgent climate action and the Reef’s custodian, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, should be sounding the alarm for Australia to do more. Instead GBRMPA chief executive Josh Thomas and the Albanese government’s special reef envoy, Senator Nita Green, have just been in Paris lobbying UNESCO, which advises on World Heritage ‘Ín Danger’ listings. 

If there was any more evidence required that we need to do more to protect the Great Barrier Reef from climate change, then this shocking data is it. 

“We know what needs to be done. The Australian Government must lift its emissions reduction targets in line with keeping global warming to 1.5oC – a critical threshold for coral reefs – and stop approving new fossil fuel projects. Our national environment law is being updated, and new Nature Positive laws must function to stop more climate pollution. We must repair catchment areas and stop mass tree clearing, especially when the Reef is under so much pressure. 

“The Queensland Government has shown leadership with its improved emissions reduction targets, and it’s time for the state’s Liberal National Party to show Queenslanders that protecting the Reef has bipartisan support.

“There is still time, but every year we waste puts us one year closer to losing this natural wonder.”