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  • The Great Barrier Reef is fighting for its life

Coral Bleaching on the Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most beautiful and biologically diverse places on Earth. But climate change, fuelled by burning fossil fuels, is warming our oceans and killing our Reef. Exceeding scientific predictions, our Reef is suffering from two consecutive years of severe mass bleaching.

During 2016 and 2017 our Great Barrier Reef suffered back-to-back bleaching events. Results from extensive aerial and underwater surveys showed that almost a quarter of the corals on the Reef died from the 2016 event. Most of the deaths occurred in the northern section, where the waters were warmest.

The 2017 mass bleaching event reached further south, from Port Douglas to Townsville. To compound the pressure a category 4 cyclone ravaged pars of the coast south of Townsville, with flooding waters inundating the inshore reefs with sediments and pollution from the land.

Half of the corals on the Great Barrier Reef have now died as a result of these events. 

The world has suffered three major bleaching events that were unheard of before now. The first major event was in 1998, then 2010, and now this event which has already become the longest on record.

Coral bleaching is caused directly by climate change. Our oceans are growing warmer because they’re absorbing excess heat from the atmosphere, caused by our continued burning of fossil fuels. The use of coal, oil and gas is the biggest threat to the continued existence of our Great Barrier Reef.

Experts say that corals can recover, if we give them a chance, but we are fast running out of time.

What is coral bleaching?

When corals become stressed, they expel the tiny colourful algae that live within their transparent tissue. Without the colourful algae, the coral limestone structure looks ghostly white.  

What causes coral bleaching?

The main cause of coral bleaching is heat stress. Global warming causes the Reef’s waters to heat up and when the water remains too hot for too long it causes mass bleaching events.

The mining and burning of fossil fuels is the leading cause of global warming.

Pollution from farm runoff makes corals more vulnerable to bleaching and makes it harder for them to recover.

Scientists predict that warming sea temperatures will mean more frequent and severe coral bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef.

What can we do?

AMCS is calling on the Australian Government to urgently put in place policies that move Australia swiftly to renewable energy and stop subsidising Australia’s fossil fuel industry to the tune of $7.7 billion a year.

To protect what remains of our Reef we must band together and put a stop to its biggest immediate threat – Adani’s Carmichael coal mine and Abbot
Point coal port expansion. 

We will not stand by and watch our Great Barrier Reef die before our eyes while our government entrenches Australia's dependence on a dirty energy future.

Join us in the Fight for our Reef. 

Lizard Island bleaching

Lizard Island, image by The Ocean Agency

In addition to our warming oceans, pollution from the Great Barrier Reef catchment makes corals more vulnerable to bleaching and makes it harder for them to recover. Our governments must introduce regulations to reduce farm chemical and sediment pollution and provide a multi-billion dollar package to improve farm practices and fund catchment repair.

Chip in to the fight for our Reef

Visit the Fight for our Reef campaign