Coral bleaching has been photographed and filmed at Ningaloo Marine Park in the northern part of Exmouth Gulf (Bundegi) this week as a consequence of unusually hot water being generated off Western Australia’s north-west coast.
Ocean and meteorological scientific agencies in Australia and the United States have issued alerts about higher than normal sea surface temperatures which will likely persist for weeks and move south along the WA coast, potentially bleaching corals at Exmouth Gulf, Ningaloo, Shark Bay, the Abrolhos Islands and beyond.
Paul Gamblin from the Australian Marine Conservation Society said: “Seeing footage of coral bleaching in the Ningaloo Marine Park is distressing for all of us who know this area to be one of the most inspiring and magnificent natural wonders in the world. Images of corals bleached white because of the stress they are enduring from overheated water is not something we ever want to witness in Western Australia.
“These images of coral bleaching at Ningaloo, alongside yet another tragic mass bleaching event at the Great Barrier Reef this year, shows emphatically that we’re not doing enough to shift from burning dirty fossil fuels which primarily drives these events.
“Every photograph of bleached corals must be a reminder that we have barely begun to make the necessary transition to clean renewable energy and is a clear rebuttal to any claim to the contrary or to any sense of complacency.”
Marine scientists have been warning for many years that global heating will damage coral reefs, including in Western Australia. The ocean has absorbed most of the planet’s heat energy in recent decades and scientists predict that coral bleaching events will become more common. Corals can recover from bleaching if hot water dissipates quickly but repeated bleaching events, such as those predicted for the WA coast or currently occurring at the Great Barrier Reef, can cause long term damage over large areas.
“It’s too early to tell what the long-term impacts will be from this current bleaching event at Ningaloo-Exmouth Gulf but scientists have warned that global heating means our reefs will bleach at greater scale and more often in the next few decades.
“These alarming images and scientists’ predictions must wake us up to the harm we’re causing to our most treasured places.
“Ningaloo-Exmouth Gulf is not only a natural wonder but generates considerable economic returns and supports many family businesses and jobs,” Mr Gamblin added.
“It’s also a reminder of the considerable stress that our marine environment and coastal areas are increasingly enduring and should change how governments and all sectors consider places like Ningaloo and Exmouth Gulf.
“Our most productive marine natural assets like seagrass, mangroves and corals are already under pressure and we need them to be in top health to withstand the ravages of global heating. Every decision must be measured against the benchmark of whether it will increase or decrease pressure on these fragile places.”
Banner image shows bleaching in the Bundegi Reef in the Ningaloo Marine Park in March 2022 (Pic: Blue Media Exmouth)