Showing posts with label marine life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marine life. Show all posts

Monday, 7 May 2018

Early end to NSW North Coast shark nets trial and Berejiklian Government urged not to reinstate the controversial strategy.


Echo NetDaily, 3 May 2018:

Local Greens MP Tamara Smith and animal rights activists have welcomed the early end to the North Coast shark nets trial and urged the State Government not to reinstate the controversial strategy.

NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair announced on Wednesday that the nets would begin coming out immediately owing to the early start of the whale migration season in the region.

The migration officially started on May 1, a month earlier than last year.
Ms Smith said on Thursday that the cessation of the trial should be permanent, and that other measures should be used to enhance community safety.

‘There is no scientific evidence and little community support for putting shark nets back in the waters off the North Coast,’ Ms Smith said in a press release.

‘The data from the North Coast Shark Net Trial is yet more evidence that the shark netting program in NSW does little to keep people safe in the water but takes a terrible toll on local marine life.

‘I support shark spotting by trained personnel such as Shark Watch volunteers or Surf Life Savers, using binoculars and drones.’

According to departmental statistics from the trial, just two of the 132 marine creatures caught in the nets between November 23, 2017 and March 31 this year was a target shark.

Among the other animals caught were a small number of threatened species, including Green Turtles and Great Hammerhead sharks, as well as 23 rays.

Forty-nine of the animals caught in the nets were killed…..

If any reader has a mind to support the permanent removal of these shark nets they can write, phone or email:

NSW Premier Hon. Gladys Berejiklian
GPO Box 5341
SYDNEY NSW 2001
PH (02) 8574 5000

NSW Deputy Premier Hon. John Barilaro
GPO Box 5341
SYDNEY NSW 2001
PH (02) 8574 5150

NSW Minister for the Environment Gabrielle Upton
GPO Box 5341
SYDNEY NSW 2001
PH (02)  8574 6107


Sunday, 22 April 2018

How long can the world sustain the current level of commercial and recreational fishing?


A vast majority of Australian households have seafood meals throughout the year.



According to the Dept. of Agriculture Australia has the world’s third largest Exclusive Economic Zone. However, the low productivity of our marine waters limits wild capture fisheries production

This meant that by 2015 an estimated 70 per cent of the seafood we consumed was imported from other fisheries around the world.

In 2016 the United Nations expected fish stocks in oceans and inland waters to significantly contribute to feeding a global population predicted to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 – even though at least 31.4 percent of fish stocks were estimated as fished at a biologically unsustainable level and therefore overfished and, there has been a general decline in global fish take since 1996. [Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, 2016 The State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture]

Since then there have been reports that competition with fishing fleets for the remaining Chinook salmon has led to a resident population of Orca experiencing sustained near starvation and studies are now showing that in human-dominated marine ecosystems loss of populations and species is occurring.

Despite the global situation Australians are still being encouraged to eat more seafood, but how long can this continue?

In 2018 another study was published which looked at ocean processes over the next 282 years and this study predicts that the global fish catch will continue its current decline.

Phys Org, 19 April 2018:

Climate change is rapidly warming the Earth and altering ecosystems on land and at sea that produce our food. In the oceans, most added heat from climate warming is still near the surface and will take centuries to work down into deeper waters. But as this happens, it will change ocean circulation patterns and make ocean food chains less productive.

In a recent study, I worked with colleagues from five universities and laboratories to examine how climate warming out to the year 2300 could affect marine ecosystems and global fisheries. We wanted to know how sustained warming would change the supply of key nutrients that support tiny plankton, which in turn are food for fish.

We found that warming on this scale would alter key factors that drive marine ecosystems, including winds, water temperatures, sea ice cover and ocean circulation. The resulting disruptions would transfer nutrients from surface waters down into the deep ocean, leaving less at the surface to support plankton growth.

As marine ecosystems become increasingly nutrient-starved over time, we estimate global fish catch could be reduced 20 percent by 2300, and by nearly 60 percent across the North Atlantic. This would be an enormous reduction in a key food source for millions of people.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Environmental disaster in NSW a herald of things to come given impacts of climate change are being felt in coastal communities and coastal waters



The Newscastle Herald, 1 February 2018:


THERE are fears thousands of “ravenous” kingfish that escaped a state-government jointly run fish farm off Port Stephens will devastate the marine park's wild fish population.
Up to 17,000 predatory yellowtail kingfish, used to being fed automatically, are now hunting in the marine park waters after 20,000 escaped last week from a fish-farm sea cage, described as a "fortress pen", that was destroyed in rough seas. About 3000 fish have been recaptured.
The future of the controversial joint NSW government and Tasmania-based Huon Aquaculture project, which is 18 months into a five-year research trial, is under a cloud following the loss of almost half its stock with a retail value of more than $2 million.
Conservation groups and local tourism operators described the multi-million dollar project as a “disaster” threatening the pristine marine park's delicate ecosystem.
Marine Parks’ Association chairman and whale watching tour operator Frank Future said fisheries staff “repeatedly assured” the community the pens could handle waves up to 15 metres.
According to Huon, the “fortress pens” were designed to withstand “high energy, exposed sites, frequently receiving storms swells and gale force winds”.
“The pen that had the release was mangled and now we have thousands of mature kingfish released into the wild, nothing will be safe from them,” Mr Future said.
“They are voracious feeders and from what I understand they are ravenous. Once they realise they won't get any food in the form of pellets they'll be eating anything they can find. I don't want to think about the impact on wild species.”
The commercial-scale kingfish trial at Providence Bay - the result of an existing offshore research lease being boosted to 62 hectares - includes five pens, each about 60 metres across, two that were stocked with 20,000 fish each. There is capacity for 12 sea pens in the trial......

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Just because it is beautiful.....(35)


Green Sea Turtle
Chelonia mydas
Found in tropical and subtropical coastal waters, Pacific Ocean
Nests on a small number of Australian beaches
mid-late October to late March-early April
Listed as Vulnerable
  

Thursday, 25 January 2018

In the face of Turnbull Government inaction & legal restraints on Sea Shepherd the Government of Japan signals intention to continue whale slaughter in Southern Ocean


The Guardian, 23 January 2018:



Japan is to defy Australia and other nations with plans to replace its whaling fleet’s ageing mother ship, showing its determination to continue its annual expeditions to the Southern Ocean.
The country’s fisheries agency is planning to replace the 30-year-old Nisshin Maru with either a new ship or a refitted one bought overseas, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.
The newspaper quoted agency officials as saying that a new mother ship was needed to haul whales on board to be butchered during Japan’s controversial “research” hunts in the Antarctic.
Whaling officials have also said they needed a faster ship to evade anti-whaling activists. The marine conservation group Sea Shepherd recently said it was abandoning its pursuit of Japan’s whalers in the Southern Ocean, but has not ruled out a resumption of its campaign.
The group has clashed with the Japanese whaling fleet several times since it started obstructing the vessels in 2005.
The introduction of a new mother ship is expected to anger anti-whaling nations, as it signals Japan’s determination to continue slaughtering hundreds of whales in the Antarctic every winter.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Reef 2050 plan to restore outstanding universal values of the Great Barrier Reef decade by decade questioned in the wake of back to-back bleaching events


On 8 December 2017 the Australian Academy of Science made a submission to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority consultation on the Coastal Ecosystems Position Statement.

This submission made the following points:

* The federal government Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability Plan to restore the “Outstanding Universal Values” of the Great Barrier Reef decade by decade is no longer tenable following back to-back bleaching events.

* Climate change is a clear and present challenge to the ongoing health of the Great Barrier Reef.

* Almost all “historic” and “legacy” stressors to the Great Barrier Reef remain today, and most of them continue to escalate — for example, land clearing, maintenance dredging, ship anchoring, and coastal recreational fishing pressure.

* There is a need to avoid further environmental damage through better management of stressors.

* Monitoring of drivers or stressors, including so called “legacy” drivers, should be included as a subject of research and management.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Shark Attacks in Australia: setting the record straight


On Saturday 23 December 2017 Liberal MP for Kooyong and Minister for Environment and Energy Josh Fydenberg penned a media release claiming big bad sharks were about to overwhelm his home state, Western Australia.

The shark in question is the Great WhiteCarcharodon carcharias, classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and currently protected as vulnerable and migratory in the Australian EEZ and state waters under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Federal Minister Frydenberg home for the parliamentary break is of course playing local WA politics during the silly season - having forgotten or ignored the fact that the White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) Recovery Plan falls within his ministerial portfolio.

However, it does appear hard for many other politicians to accept that, in the 224 years of human-shark interaction record keeping undertaken since 1788, the number of deaths due to shark attack barely equates to one death per year along the est. 59,736 kilometres of coastline in this country.

Here are a few facts which are on that record.

A ‘shark attack’ is defined in the ASAF as any human–shark interaction where either a shark (not in captivity) makes a determined attempt to attack a person who is alive and in the water or the shark attacks equipment held by the victim or attacks a small-water craft containing the victim…..

Over the 218 years for which records were available, there have been 592 recorded unprovoked incidents in Australian waters, comprising 178 fatalities, 322 injuries and 92 incidents where no injury occurred. Most of these attacks have occurred since 1900, with 540 recorded unprovoked attacks, including 153 fatalities, 302 injuries and 85 incidents where no injury occurred. Attacks have occurred around most of the Australian coast, most frequently on the more densely populated eastern coast and near major cities…

In the 20 years since 1990, there have been 186 reported incidents, including 22 fatalities (Table 1). This represents a 16% increase in reported attacks during 1990–1999 and a 25% increase over the past 10 years (Fig. 3). The majority of attacks occurred in New South Wales (NSW) with 73 incidents (39%), then Queensland with 43 incidents (23%), Western Australia (WA) with 35 incidents (19%), South Australia with 20 incidents (11%), Victoria with 12 incidents (6%), Tasmania with two incidents (1.5%) and Northern Territory with one incident (0.5%)…..

[CSIRO, Marine and Freshwater Research, 2011, Shark Attacks In Australia, p.745]

SHARK ATTACKS AUSTRALIA-WIDE JANUARY 2012 to NOVEMBER 2017

2012 – 22 attacks (8 provoked) in total, 2 fatalities and 14 attacks involving injury

2013 – 14 attacks (4 provoked) in total, 2 fatalities and 10 attacks involving injury

2014 – 23 attacks (12 provoked) in total, 5 fatalities and 14 attacks involving injury

2015 – 33 attacks (11 provoked) in total, 2 fatalities and 23 attacks involving injury

2016 – 26 cases (9 provoked) in total, 2 fatalities and 16 attacks involving injury

2017 – 19 attacks (2 provoked) in total, 1 fatality and 11 attacks involving injury [up to 24 November 2017]

[Taronga Conservation Society AustraliaThe Australian Shark Attack File (ASAF), Annual Report Summary]

Throughout the world, human populations are increasing whereas shark populations are decreasing because of direct and indirect human impact (Castro et al. 1999). There is evidence that at least some shark populations in Australia have declined as a result of commercial and recreational fishing pressure (Punt and Walker 1998; Punt et al. 2000; Simpfendorfer et al. 2000; McAuley et al. 2007…..

Patterns of attack have changed substantially over time as a result of the changing population and human behaviour. If human activity related to water-based activities and the use of beaches, harbours and rivers continues to change, we can expect to see further changes in the patterns, distribution, frequency and types of attacks in the future. Encounters with sharks, although a rare event, will continue to occur if humans continue to enter the ocean professionally or for recreational pursuit.

It is important to keep the risk of a shark attack in perspective. On average, 87 people drown at Australian beaches each year (SLSA 2010), yet there have been, on average, only 1.1 fatalities per year from shark attack over the past two decades. It is clear that the risk of being bitten or dying from an unprovoked shark attack in Australia remains extremely low.

[CSIRO, Marine and Freshwater Research, 2011, Shark Attacks In Australia]

ABC News, 8 February 2016:

The shark nets used on Sydney beaches in New South Wales do nothing to reduce the chance of attacks, a statistical analysis has found.

Associate Professor Laurie Laurenson from Deakin University's School of Life and Environmental Sciences has analysed 50 years of data about shark mitigation programs and coastal populations in NSW and South Africa.

He told Four Corners reducing the density of local shark populations did not reduce the likelihood of shark attack.

"I can show statistically that there is no relationship between the number of sharks out there and the number of shark attacks," he said.

"It's just simply not there … I'm surprised that it's not there, but it's not there."

It is the first time a comprehensive analysis has been done in an effort to link populations of sharks and people and the number of attacks in netted areas.

The findings are included in an unpublished paper which is in the process of being peer reviewed.

"We could not demonstrate a statistically significant relationship between the density of the sharks and the number of attacks in the localised area around Sydney where there have been historically large numbers of attacks and there've been large numbers of mitigation programs," Dr Laurenson said.

In early 2017 North Coast Voices observed about the predictably lethal consequences of shark netting that the NSW North Coast marine species protection record is a very sad affair.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Shark management on the NSW North Coast


Senate Environment and Communications References Committee, Inquiry Report, Shark mitigation and deterrent measures, December 2017:

List of recommendations
Recommendation 1
8.19 The committee recommends that the New South Wales and Queensland Governments:
* immediately replace lethal drum lines with SMART drum lines; and
* phase out shark meshing programs and increase funding and support for the development and implementation of a wide range of non-lethal shark mitigation and deterrent measures.
8.20 The committee further recommends that the Australian Government pursue this recommendation at a future Meeting of Environment Ministers.
Recommendation 2
8.28 The committee recommends that, while state government lethal shark control programs remain in place, management arrangements for these programs should include more effective and transparent catch monitoring with the objective of improving understanding of the efficacy of lethal measures for public safety and the effects of the measures on the populations of marine species.
Recommendation 3
8.29 The committee recommends that the Australian Government:
* establish a publicly accessible national database of target and non-target species interactions with shark control measures; and
* require the Department of the Environment and Energy to use this information to prepare and publish an annual assessment of the impacts of lethal shark control measures on target and non-target marine species.
Recommendation 4
8.30 The committee recommends that state governments review and regularly audit the quality of the data collected on target and non-target species interactions with shark control measures.
Recommendation 5
8.37 The committee recommends that the Australian Government establish a review into the effectiveness of shark research and, following the review, commit to providing funding on a long-term basis for research areas that are considered likely to significantly contribute to improved knowledge about effective shark mitigation and deterrent measures.
Recommendation 6
8.38 The committee recommends that the Australian Government review the funding provided to CSIRO to enable CSIRO to:
* undertake ongoing data collection and monitoring to support the determination of white shark population trends;
* develop a predictive model of shark abundance and location; and
*• undertake a social survey to determine how the behaviour of water users has changed in response to the recent human–shark interactions.
8.39 The committee further recommends that the Australian Government seek advice from CSIRO as to whether research can be undertaken to address anecdotal evidence presented to the committee on the potential risk that certain ocean-based activities, such as the use of teaser baits in cage diving, crayfish pots and trophy hunting, might increase the risk of human–shark interactions. The Australian Government should review the funding provided for marine science research to enable CSIRO (or another research institution) to conduct the research CSIRO advises could be undertaken.
Recommendation 7
8.42 The committee recommends that the Australian Government initiate discussions with state and Northern Territory governments regarding the clinical information collected about shark bite incidents to enable subsequent expert analysis of shark behaviour.
Recommendation 8
8.46 The committee recommends that the Australian Government match funding provided by state governments in support of the development of new and emerging shark mitigation and deterrent measures.
Recommendation 9
8.52 The committee recommends that the Australian Government develop a process to ensure products marketed as personal shark deterrent devices are independently verified as being fit-for-purpose.
Recommendation 10
8.53 The committee recommends that the Minister for the Environment and Energy and relevant state governments work with key stakeholder groups, such as national surfing organisations, to encourage water users to take all reasonable steps to reduce the probability of being involved in a shark bite incident, including by endorsing the use of independently verified personal deterrent devices.
Recommendation 11
8.55 The committee recommends that the Western Australian Government's trial rebate program for independently verified personal deterrent devices be made ongoing in Western Australia and adopted by other relevant state governments.
8.56 The committee further recommends that relevant state governments consider developing programs for subsidising independently verified personal deterrent devices for occasional surfers at beaches associated with the risk of dangerous shark encounters.
Recommendation 12
8.62 The committee recommends that the Australian Government hold a National Shark Summit of shark experts.
Recommendation 13
8.63 The committee recommends that the Australian Government establish a National Shark Stakeholder Working Group comprising key stakeholders in shark management policies. The principal function of the Working Group would be to further the objective of ending lethal shark control programs by developing strategies and facilitating information sharing about the effective use of non-lethal measures.
Recommendation 14
8.68 The committee recommends that the National Shark Stakeholder Working Group review the adequacy of information available to beachgoers regarding the risk presented by sharks, such as signage at beaches and how real-time information provided through shark alert apps can be made available at beaches.
Recommendation 15
8.69 The committee recommends that the Australian Government, working with relevant state governments, develop a program to provide grants for specialised trauma kits at venues near beaches associated with the risk of human–shark encounters.
Recommendation 16
8.70 The committee recommends that relevant state governments review the water safety education programs and education about sharks generally that is provided in schools (particularly schools in coastal areas), with a view to enhancing the education provided on reducing the risk of shark interactions and improving knowledge about shark behaviour and the ecological value of sharks.
8.71 As part of these reviews, the committee recommends that state governments consider the role that relevant community and scientific organisations with expertise in human–shark encounters could have in supporting the delivery of such programs.
Recommendation 17
8.72 The committee recommends that the National Shark Stakeholder Working Group review the various social media accounts and apps that distribute real-time information about shark sightings and warnings about the risk of shark activity to consider whether an integrated national database and app should be established.
Recommendation 18
8.74 The committee recommends that the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries improve its consultation and communication with animal rescue groups regarding marine wildlife caught in or injured by lethal shark control measures.
Recommendation 19
8.80 In light of the repeated use of section 158 exemptions for lethal shark control programs, the committee recommends that the next independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 carefully consider whether section 158 is operating as intended. In particular, the committee recommends that the independent review consider:
* whether the matters the Minister may consider in determining the national interest should be limited; and
* whether section 158 should be amended to prohibit the repeated granting of exemptions for the same controlled action or any other controlled action of a similar nature.
Recommendation 20
8.81 The committee recommends that the Minister for the Environment and Energy refrain from granting exemptions under section 158 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 for matters relating to shark control programs until after the operation of section 158 has been reviewed in accordance with Recommendation 19.

The burning question which flows from these recommendations is: Will the Berejiklian Government listen?

Thursday, 19 October 2017

"Want to clear the pool of sharks? Ask the little lady. The sheilas are tough in Australia."


“Want to clear the pool of sharks? Ask the little lady. The sheilas are tough in Australia” I’m sure the North Coast Voices reader who sent me a link to this video along with that comment was boasting a bit as he said it.

Meet Melissa Hatheier of Cronulla……

Image from ABC News, 11 October 2016

And this is Melissa tidying away “a little Port Jackson shark” at Oak Park Sea Pool, Cronulla, NSW………





Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Under Turnbull Government's new plan "38 out of 44 marine parks will be open to trawling, gillnetting and longlining, 33 will be open to mining, and 42 exposed to the construction of pipelines"



Canberra Times, 17 September 2017:
In the corridors of Parliament House that day, as I met MPs of every stripe, I felt a great sense of promise, even pride. And it seemed for a while such hope was not misplaced. In 2012, after an exhaustive scientific process and wide community consultation, Tony Burke declared a system of marine national parks, one of the biggest and best in the world, the most significant conservation gain in Australian history.
That took courage. Because it put science before politics, prudence ahead of expediency. And it was popular. But as soon as he came to power in 2013 Tony Abbott announced an immediate moratorium on these parks and instigated a review. The purpose was purely political. To delay implementation, corrode consensus and deny the science. A move straight out of the culture warrior's playbook.
After decades of forward-thinking leaders, the nation had fallen into the hands of a man whose loyalties were only to the past. It was a low moment. But Abbott's reign was as brief as it was fruitless. It was a relief to see him replaced in 2015 by a man who'd actually done things, who believed in the future. Malcolm Turnbull did not scorn science. He seemed to understand the value and fragility of our natural estate. So there was new hope the marine parks review would now be expedited and redirected towards real conservation outcomes. With coral reefs bleaching and miners pressing for even more coal ports and seabed to drill, the need for protection had only grown more urgent.
Well, that moment of promise is long gone. Turnbull's period in office has basically been a hostage drama. The bargain he made with powerbrokers rendered him captive to the party's most illiberal wing, and if his performance on climate, energy and marriage equality aren't evidence enough, last month's announcement that marine parks would be slashed beyond all recognition puts it beyond dispute.
The agents of inertia control his government. And what's worse he's looking like a hostage who's begun to identify with his captors. How else to explain his radical lurch backwards on parks? The draft management plans recently released for consultation by Josh Frydenberg don't just signify the gutting of the national system, they represent the largest removal of protection for Australian wildlife in our history. What the government is proposing is a nihilistic act of vandalism. Forty  million hectares of sanctuary will be ripped from the estate. That's like revoking every second national park on land. Under its new plan, 38 out of 44 marine parks will be open to trawling, gillnetting and longlining, 33 will be open to mining, and 42 exposed to the construction of pipelines. In total defiance of the scientific advice upon which the original system was designed, 16 marine parks will now have no sanctuary zones at all.
The science shows that partial or low-level protection simply doesn't work. What the government is putting forward will radically diminish protection of habitat. It will also undermine sustainable regional economic development. What began as a quest for excellence based on the best possible science is now so miserably degraded it's turned the greatest step forward in marine conservation into a regime that doesn't even aspire to be second-rate.
Draft management plans for Australian marine parks/reserves:
                                                                         



South-west Commonwealth Marine Reserves draft management plan

As one South Australian voter put it after reading about the Turnbull Government's intentions; FFS ! These guys are proof that there are no time machines. Otherwise someone from the future would come back and mulch the pr*cks. (quote supplied)

Voters in NSW North Coast electorates should be aware that:
* Nationals MP for Page Kevin Hogan supported this review and to date has never voted against his party’s position in the House of Representatives. Therefore it is highly likely that he will vote for any government bill which will reduce marine park and marine reserve protections.
*Nationals MP for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker supported this review and to date has never voted against his party’s position in the House of Representatives. Therefore it is highly likely that he will vote for any government bill which will reduce marine park and marine reserve protections.
* Labor MP for Richmond Justine Elliot does not support a reduction in marine parks and marine reserve protections.

Brief background


The Turnbull government has released draft management plans for the nation's marine parks that amount to an "unprecedented roll-back" of protections, a coalition of 25 environmental groups say.

The long-awaited draft plans were released on Friday and propose changes to the 3.3 million square kilometres of Australia's protected offshore regions expanded in 2012 by the Gillard government.

The area of marine parks open to fishing would jump to 80 per cent from 64 per cent now, if the changes were to pass through parliament, WWF-Australia said.

"This is a huge step backwards for marine protection," Richard Leck, WWF's head of oceans, said. "Australia used to be seen as a global leader in marine conservation. That will no longer be the case if these proposals are implemented."

Other proposed changes would strip Shark and Vema reefs of  marine national park status, while Osprey reef - one of the world's premier dive sites - has lost more than half its protection, Tony Burke, Labor's environment spokesman said.

"Five years ago, Labor make the second largest conservation decision in history. Today the Turnbull Government announced the largest undoing of conservation ever," Mr Burke said….

Of particular concern to the green groups is the Coral Sea Marine Park, where a substantial area previously given the maximum protection had been reduced……

Ms Grady said the government had chosen to ignore the science contained in independent reviews that backed the original zones.

"All Australians will be justifiably distressed to know that science evidence supporting an increase in protections for marine life has been thrown out the window," Darren Kindleysides, director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

"Zero prospect of recovery" for many sections of Australia's World Heritage Great Barrier Reef


James Cook University, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, media release, 10 April 2017:

Two-thirds of Great Barrier Reef hit by back-to-back mass coral bleaching

For the second time in just 12 months, scientists have recorded severe coral bleaching across huge tracts of the Great Barrier Reef after completing aerial surveys along its entire length.  In 2016, bleaching was most severe in the northern third of the Reef, while one year on, the middle third has experienced the most intense coral bleaching.

“The combined impact of this back-to-back bleaching stretches for 1,500 km (900 miles), leaving only the southern third unscathed,” says Prof. Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, who undertook the aerial surveys in both 2016 and 2017.

“The bleaching is caused by record-breaking temperatures driven by global warming. This year, 2017, we are seeing mass bleaching, even without the assistance of El Niño conditions.”

The aerial surveys in 2017 covered more than 8,000 km (5,000 miles) and scored nearly 800 individual coral reefs closely matching the aerial surveys in 2016 that were carried out by the same two observers.

Dr. James Kerry, who also undertook the aerial surveys, explains further, “this is the fourth time the Great Barrier Reef has bleached severely – in 1998, 2002, 2016, and now in 2017. Bleached corals are not necessarily dead corals, but in the severe central region we anticipate high levels of coral loss.”

“It takes at least a decade for a full recovery of even the fastest growing corals, so mass bleaching events 12 months apart offers zero prospect of recovery for reefs that were damaged in 2016.”

Coupled with the 2017 mass bleaching event, Tropical Cyclone Debbie struck a corridor of the Great Barrier Reef at the end of March.  The intense, slow-moving system was likely to have caused varying levels of damage along a path up to 100 km in width. Any cooling effects related to the cyclone are likely to be negligible in relation to the damage it caused, which unfortunately struck a section of the reef that had largely escaped the worst of the bleaching.

“Clearly the reef is struggling with multiple impacts,” explains Prof. Hughes. “Without a doubt the most pressing of these is global warming. As temperatures continue to rise the corals will experience more and more of these events:  1°C of warming so far has already caused four events in the past 19 years.”

‘Ultimately, we need to cut carbon emissions, and the window to do so is rapidly closing.”

Not all data is shown, only reefs at either end of the bleaching spectrum: Red circles indicate reefs undergoing most severe bleaching (60% or more of visible corals bleaching) Green circles indicate reefs with no or only minimal bleaching (10% or less of corals bleaching).