2500 coral reef experts plead for better management of Great Barrier Reef

By Jared Richards | June 27, 2016

“The damage to this Australian icon has already been devastating.”

MORE THAN 2500 coral scientists, policy planners and managers have signed a strongly worded letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, imploring immediate action towards reducing Australia’s carbon emissions to save the Great Barrier Reef from rapid bleaching.

RELATED: In pictures: the Great Barrier Reef’s bleaching

The letter comes at the end of the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium with the International Society for Reef Studies held last week in Honolulu, Hawaii. It was written on behalf of the symposium’s attendees by the respective past and present Society presidents, Robert H. Richmond and Ruth Gates, to chastise the Australian government for failing to prioritise the Great Barrier Reef’s ecosystem.

“This year has seen the worst mass bleaching in history, threatening many coral reefs around the world including the whole of the northern Great Barrier Reef, the biggest and best-known of all reefs,” they wrote. “The damage to this Australian icon has already been devastating.”

In March 2016 a report co-written by several of Australia’s leading climate academics determined that 93 per cent of the reef has experienced bleaching. The same report also determined that due to climate change, bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef was made 175 times more likely.

RELATED: Great Barrier Reef bleaching almost impossible without climate change

In the letter, Robert and Ruth remind the Prime Minister of the consequences of continued damage to the reef, stating that “as a result of reef destruction, a quarter of all marine species are at risk and the associated economic losses will expose hundreds of millions of people to decreasing food security and increased poverty”.

In May, The Guardian reported that the Australian government had requested that references to the Great Barrier Reef be removed from a highly critical UNESCO report on tourism and climate change.

RELATED: Are Aussies unfit to care for Great Barrier Reef?

The Symposium proposes the Australian Government stop exporting coal mining, port dredging, and shipping fossil fuels across the Great Barrier Reef. It specifically highlights the potential damage that could be caused by proposed new mines in Queensland, stating they “have the potential to become the world’s biggest and most harmful single sources of atmospheric pollution”.

The letter ends by urging the Australian Government to “lead-not-follow” on creating a low carbon economy.

Read the original, full letter here.

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