The GBR: Time for a united industry message

Tony Brown, Director, True Blue Sailing writes:
Firstly I would like to say that the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is still one of the most important and amazing ecosystems to visit on this planet.
I have been very fortunate to participate on boards that are involved in management of the GBR, this has allowed me to meet the leading scientists and minds on the threats facing the GBR’s future.
It’s topical as we just had President Obama saying he’d “quite like it if his kids could see that natural glory for themselves, thanks very much”.
His concern for the future of the GBR was not the threats of cyclones, runoff, or Crown of Thorn starfish, he is concerned about the threat of climate change. In the 2050 plan draft by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority they stated, “climate change remains the most serious threat to the Great Barrier Reef. It is already affecting the Reef and is likely to have far-reaching consequences in the decades to come”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated: “the ability of corals to adapt naturally to rising temperatures and acidification appears limited and insufficient to offset the detrimental effects.” In other words the GBR is facing the disastrous prospects of mass bleaching and die off if the World doesn’t dramatically lower carbon emissions, this is because the rate of warming we are on track to experience is simply too fast for coral reefs to adapt.
The more modest projections from the modeling show that the GBR will be seriously degraded within 20 years. The National Environmental Research Program found over 65% of visitors to the GBR said they would either shorten their stay or not come if there was half as much coral. Compare this to a 25% decline in visitations in the Whitsundays due to a strong Australian dollar with an outcome of 18 less vessels operating since.
Obviously these outcomes are going to have considerable impact on all GBR tourism and reliant businesses, however what we don’t know is the impact this will have to tourism as a whole, I suspect overall it will be a negative one. It is a complex issue that requires a global response, never the less our industry should create a clear and united message. This “Industry position” can then be used by industry to all levels of Government with the aim of positioning industry needs for a sustainable future.
I’m available for further discussion via tony@truebluesailing.com.au.

10 thoughts on “The GBR: Time for a united industry message

  • December 8, 2014 at 7:41 am
    Permalink

    Good on you Tony Brown for standing tall on an an issue of global importance. Those of us that have watched the current Governments, ignore the health of the reef and abandon tourism in favour of big mining projects need to be held to account. It needs to be on the political agenda..

    Reply
  • December 8, 2014 at 7:41 am
    Permalink

    Good on you Tony Brown for standing tall on an an issue of global importance. Those of us that have watched the current Governments, ignore the health of the reef and abandon tourism in favour of big mining projects need to be held to account. It needs to be on the political agenda..

    Reply
  • December 18, 2014 at 10:00 am
    Permalink

    I think it’s clear we can’t expect or wait for the current government to act on reducing carbon emissions, particularly when they’re still in denial that the problem is one of our own making. This government does not represent the views held by the majority of the Australian public, let alone the broader global community. So what to do?

    I believe there has to be a movement or groundswell of action from the grassroots upwards that includes people, businesses and organisations that believe in the science and bring pressure on all levels of government to instigate change to firstly halt climate change and ultimately reverse its effects.

    As a start I call on those organisations that represent tourism including Tourism Australia, ATEC, BOA, Backpacker Trade News etc to take a public stand that not only demand more action to reduce carbon emissions, but also help their members ‘walk the walk’.

    Bugger being politically diplomatic and sitting on the fence. This is the defining crisis of our lifetimes and we need to take responsibility. I for one do not want to leave this world having done nothing to preserve this world for my children.

    Reply
  • December 31, 2014 at 11:31 am
    Permalink

    Don’t represent the majority of Australians? They got in on the promise of removing the carbon tax.
    Where is the proof the sea levels are rising and the oceans are warmer than a century ago? Real proof please not paid proof.

    Reply
  • December 31, 2014 at 11:31 am
    Permalink

    Don’t represent the majority of Australians? They got in on the promise of removing the carbon tax.
    Where is the proof the sea levels are rising and the oceans are warmer than a century ago? Real proof please not paid proof.

    Reply
  • January 12, 2015 at 12:12 pm
    Permalink

    My business relies on a healthy reef. The GBR is THE drawcard for 90% of people travelling North of Noosa. That is what I have learned directly from my guests over the past 27 years and this is backed up by all sorts of official statistics by those who are paid to research tourism.

    I`d like to relate some of what I have seen with my own eyes, and add a few facts in about other issues and factors relating to the reef`s health. Read on if you are interested, or just attack me anonymously or in person, I don`t give a bugger..

    I have long been a spear fisherman/snorkeller, since I was 8 or 9, first in Port Phillip and Westernport Bay in Vic, then off Wilsons Prom and Petrel Rock, Inverloch, off the Gippsland, the coast off Eden in NSW and, for the last 28 years, I have been privileged enough to be able to enjoy the famous and fabulous undersea world of the GBR in Qld. On average, I have been snorkelling, fishing and spearing the reef at least one whole day per fortnight for 20 years.

    I`ve seen many changes to the habitats of those locations and the numbers of people visiting certain areas, as well as changes in National/Marine Park boundaries. I have actively participated in the introduction of new ‘Green’ zones through reporting catches ( species, size, location, etc ) and I have attempted to form a group where ALL stakeholders in the GBR can lobby for a sustainable future for ALL interests ( it was like trying to herd cats…..)

    For those of you who don`t venture into the sea with a mask and snorkel very often, and maybe only in holiday locations on commercial boats, I can tell you now, from personal observation, that certain areas are better than before, whilst others are in worse shape : viz in Port Phillip Bay is astoundingly good since they stopped the scallop dredging last century ( in my day, 12-24 feet was exceptional, now, that`s an average day…) and areas such as Squeaky Beach, off the Prom, are Green zones.

    Off my main area of reef exploration, Mission Beach, Cardwell and Innisfail, the reef has been up and down: Cyclone Larry devastated much of the shallow reef and the lagoons, with the staghorn and table corals especially smashed up in its aftermath. However, as they are two of the fastest growing corals, they were starting to come back nicely when Cyclone Yasi smashed them once again…..4 years later, I am seeing the same regeneration of corals, giant clams and other coral structures, as I`d expect. Some shallow areas seemed to survive both cyclones, and yet some deeper areas ( 4-8 m) copped it, with massive heads of coral looking like a cabbage sliced in half with a knife.

    During these years, although much diminished in overall numbers of pax and size of vessels, there have been commercial tours to the reef off Mission. The old mooring places next to Beaver sand Cay, the oldest and original GBR Green zone , are not really viable as yet, with the staghorn, etc, still a couple of years off looking spectacular, but nearby Eddie, Farquarson and Taylor Reefs all have great dive spots.

    Over the post-Yasi period, I started to dive off Port Douglas regularly. There, the reefs hadn`t been hit by a large cyclone in decades and the reef structure, especially in shallower waters and around the lagoons, was AWESOME. However, last year, Cooktown experienced a small-scale Cat 5 cyclone and the swell it generated to the South did smash much of the shallow water reef off some of Port`s shallower reefs. Once again, some areas escaped damage, others were severely hit, but life goes on and the diversity of sea life is undiminished off the areas I dive.

    Prior to the GFC, whilst heading out across the shipping channel ( a naturally formed area of deeper water that runs down inside the reef ), I would have to alter course frequently due to the large amount of shipping plying those waters: cargo ships heading South to Brisbane with loaded decks, or heading North empty and high in the water, bulk carriers heading South to load up with sugar, coal, etc from Townsville and ports South….it was not unusual to see 5 or 6 ships appearing and disappearing over the horizon. Once the GFC hit, it really was amazing how quiet the sea lanes became…Even now, I rarely have to consider course corrections due to ships as I head out.

    Now, there has been lots of concern over increases in shipping traffic damaging the reef. I don`t see it. The channel exist already, the reef copes with it and has done for decades. New shipping REGULATIONS, well, that would be worth supporting. Not all the ships NEED come down within reef waters and ALL that do enter the reef should use local maritime pilots to navigate the waters. This would solve many problems.

    As for coal port expansion ( or iron ore or alumina or silver or copper port expansion ), there is a hell of a lot of ideology behind preventing this, but not so much science and practical logic. For instance, with the Abbot Point dredge spoil now planned for a shore disposal, not at sea, the fears for the viability of the reef`s future should be much reduced ( btw, every single wet season, millions upon millions of tonnes of silt, etc wash out of Northern creeks, rivers and drains, straight into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. BILLIONS of tonnes annually. Now, despite the fact the Daintree River is running a brown streak for several kilometers off its mouth into the Coral Sea, I can dive at Undine Reef in perfect viz at the same time…amazing but true.)

    Recent figures that were gleefully bandied about by extremist Green groups and certain interested parties that have a barrow to push were that up to 50% of the GBR`s coral cover was lost have, no doubt, scared many of you who don`t actually get out there much.

    However, that figure came from a study of 43 reefs, the majority of them in the Southern section, which, in the last 9 years had copped cyclone`s Hamish, Larry, Yasi and Ului, amongst others( Hamish, in particular, tracked for 500 km down the reef from North to South, doing an incredibly destructive amount of damage to the shallower reef- it was estimated that in waters off Wide Bay, 70% of local corals had been destroyed…..) 43 reefs out of a total of over 2,300 is not going to give a very accurate indication of current coral cover, nor the reason`s for present high levels of damage.

    As the reef is between 8 to 10,000 years old and cyclones are not man-made, you can rest assured that the GBR has weathered such hits, and worse, over its lifetime and continued on. Those of you who will say ” What about all the CO2 we`re making??”, I`m pretty sure the reef has had to endure some pretty hefty volcanic eruptions over that period, with the corals and other reef lifeforms all having to survive massive tsunamis, lack of sunlight, cyclones AND increased CO2 levels for who knows how long.

    Now, I have three kids, two of whom LOVE spearfishing and snorkelling and fishing, and I don`t want to leave them a world where there is no reef to explore and enjoy, same as I don`t want our rainforest to be cleared or our desserts polluted and poisoned, but we are lucky to live in a massive country where if you concentrated all the areas of our nation that are currently scarred by mining into one area and looked from space, it would appear as less than a pin head, and where we DO have regulatory bodies and strong environmental protection regulations.

    You can all choose to believe the Chicken Little pronouncements of doom and gloom for the reef ( and for all of us….) coming from those whose funding depends on finding further risks rather than having to report that everything is satisfactory .

    Educate yourselves and look into all the previous pronouncements of the reefs imminent destruction over the past 40 years and, whilst you`re at it, check out the Oil Crisis prophesy of the 70`s, the early fears of a coming Ice Age , the Millenium Bug, Bird Flu, Hini virus and peak oil….what`s the going rate for oil now, US $50 per barrel…??? $40?????!!!!! Laughable.

    Now, I`m not against better management of the reef, of shipping traffic and of dredge spoil dumping, port expansion/development, etc, but I love the reef, I live up here so I can enjoy exploring it and I simply do not agree that it is in imminent danger of collapse. Certain areas are under more pressure than others or have suffered more recent cyclone damage than others and we do have periods of heavy rain that can lead to greater rates of coral bleaching than normal ( notice how that was the major concern last decade, coral bleaching? Not in the headlines at the mo because the conditions that lead to larger than natural bleaching ‘events’ haven`t returned yet) However, this does not mean that Australia cannot experience coal industry growth,a local seafood industry, recreational fishing/spearing AND tourism growth without destroying the reef.

    I would also point out that MY industry, tourism, is a part of the problem of reef damage and degradation and pollution, directly and indirectly, and I think that reef and island tourism operators should be very careful in what they say about impacts on the reef. You could be the next industry in the gun……

    PS-Why is it that the IPCC et al claim that rising temperatures are a MASSIVE threat to the existence of the GBR when
    the same species of fish and corals, etc, can live both off the coast at Gladstone, in the waters off the Daintree and just off shore in New Guinea, despite a temperature range of around 7 degrees Celsius…..?

    Reply
  • January 12, 2015 at 12:12 pm
    Permalink

    My business relies on a healthy reef. The GBR is THE drawcard for 90% of people travelling North of Noosa. That is what I have learned directly from my guests over the past 27 years and this is backed up by all sorts of official statistics by those who are paid to research tourism.

    I`d like to relate some of what I have seen with my own eyes, and add a few facts in about other issues and factors relating to the reef`s health. Read on if you are interested, or just attack me anonymously or in person, I don`t give a bugger..

    I have long been a spear fisherman/snorkeller, since I was 8 or 9, first in Port Phillip and Westernport Bay in Vic, then off Wilsons Prom and Petrel Rock, Inverloch, off the Gippsland, the coast off Eden in NSW and, for the last 28 years, I have been privileged enough to be able to enjoy the famous and fabulous undersea world of the GBR in Qld. On average, I have been snorkelling, fishing and spearing the reef at least one whole day per fortnight for 20 years.

    I`ve seen many changes to the habitats of those locations and the numbers of people visiting certain areas, as well as changes in National/Marine Park boundaries. I have actively participated in the introduction of new ‘Green’ zones through reporting catches ( species, size, location, etc ) and I have attempted to form a group where ALL stakeholders in the GBR can lobby for a sustainable future for ALL interests ( it was like trying to herd cats…..)

    For those of you who don`t venture into the sea with a mask and snorkel very often, and maybe only in holiday locations on commercial boats, I can tell you now, from personal observation, that certain areas are better than before, whilst others are in worse shape : viz in Port Phillip Bay is astoundingly good since they stopped the scallop dredging last century ( in my day, 12-24 feet was exceptional, now, that`s an average day…) and areas such as Squeaky Beach, off the Prom, are Green zones.

    Off my main area of reef exploration, Mission Beach, Cardwell and Innisfail, the reef has been up and down: Cyclone Larry devastated much of the shallow reef and the lagoons, with the staghorn and table corals especially smashed up in its aftermath. However, as they are two of the fastest growing corals, they were starting to come back nicely when Cyclone Yasi smashed them once again…..4 years later, I am seeing the same regeneration of corals, giant clams and other coral structures, as I`d expect. Some shallow areas seemed to survive both cyclones, and yet some deeper areas ( 4-8 m) copped it, with massive heads of coral looking like a cabbage sliced in half with a knife.

    During these years, although much diminished in overall numbers of pax and size of vessels, there have been commercial tours to the reef off Mission. The old mooring places next to Beaver sand Cay, the oldest and original GBR Green zone , are not really viable as yet, with the staghorn, etc, still a couple of years off looking spectacular, but nearby Eddie, Farquarson and Taylor Reefs all have great dive spots.

    Over the post-Yasi period, I started to dive off Port Douglas regularly. There, the reefs hadn`t been hit by a large cyclone in decades and the reef structure, especially in shallower waters and around the lagoons, was AWESOME. However, last year, Cooktown experienced a small-scale Cat 5 cyclone and the swell it generated to the South did smash much of the shallow water reef off some of Port`s shallower reefs. Once again, some areas escaped damage, others were severely hit, but life goes on and the diversity of sea life is undiminished off the areas I dive.

    Prior to the GFC, whilst heading out across the shipping channel ( a naturally formed area of deeper water that runs down inside the reef ), I would have to alter course frequently due to the large amount of shipping plying those waters: cargo ships heading South to Brisbane with loaded decks, or heading North empty and high in the water, bulk carriers heading South to load up with sugar, coal, etc from Townsville and ports South….it was not unusual to see 5 or 6 ships appearing and disappearing over the horizon. Once the GFC hit, it really was amazing how quiet the sea lanes became…Even now, I rarely have to consider course corrections due to ships as I head out.

    Now, there has been lots of concern over increases in shipping traffic damaging the reef. I don`t see it. The channel exist already, the reef copes with it and has done for decades. New shipping REGULATIONS, well, that would be worth supporting. Not all the ships NEED come down within reef waters and ALL that do enter the reef should use local maritime pilots to navigate the waters. This would solve many problems.

    As for coal port expansion ( or iron ore or alumina or silver or copper port expansion ), there is a hell of a lot of ideology behind preventing this, but not so much science and practical logic. For instance, with the Abbot Point dredge spoil now planned for a shore disposal, not at sea, the fears for the viability of the reef`s future should be much reduced ( btw, every single wet season, millions upon millions of tonnes of silt, etc wash out of Northern creeks, rivers and drains, straight into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. BILLIONS of tonnes annually. Now, despite the fact the Daintree River is running a brown streak for several kilometers off its mouth into the Coral Sea, I can dive at Undine Reef in perfect viz at the same time…amazing but true.)

    Recent figures that were gleefully bandied about by extremist Green groups and certain interested parties that have a barrow to push were that up to 50% of the GBR`s coral cover was lost have, no doubt, scared many of you who don`t actually get out there much.

    However, that figure came from a study of 43 reefs, the majority of them in the Southern section, which, in the last 9 years had copped cyclone`s Hamish, Larry, Yasi and Ului, amongst others( Hamish, in particular, tracked for 500 km down the reef from North to South, doing an incredibly destructive amount of damage to the shallower reef- it was estimated that in waters off Wide Bay, 70% of local corals had been destroyed…..) 43 reefs out of a total of over 2,300 is not going to give a very accurate indication of current coral cover, nor the reason`s for present high levels of damage.

    As the reef is between 8 to 10,000 years old and cyclones are not man-made, you can rest assured that the GBR has weathered such hits, and worse, over its lifetime and continued on. Those of you who will say ” What about all the CO2 we`re making??”, I`m pretty sure the reef has had to endure some pretty hefty volcanic eruptions over that period, with the corals and other reef lifeforms all having to survive massive tsunamis, lack of sunlight, cyclones AND increased CO2 levels for who knows how long.

    Now, I have three kids, two of whom LOVE spearfishing and snorkelling and fishing, and I don`t want to leave them a world where there is no reef to explore and enjoy, same as I don`t want our rainforest to be cleared or our desserts polluted and poisoned, but we are lucky to live in a massive country where if you concentrated all the areas of our nation that are currently scarred by mining into one area and looked from space, it would appear as less than a pin head, and where we DO have regulatory bodies and strong environmental protection regulations.

    You can all choose to believe the Chicken Little pronouncements of doom and gloom for the reef ( and for all of us….) coming from those whose funding depends on finding further risks rather than having to report that everything is satisfactory .

    Educate yourselves and look into all the previous pronouncements of the reefs imminent destruction over the past 40 years and, whilst you`re at it, check out the Oil Crisis prophesy of the 70`s, the early fears of a coming Ice Age , the Millenium Bug, Bird Flu, Hini virus and peak oil….what`s the going rate for oil now, US $50 per barrel…??? $40?????!!!!! Laughable.

    Now, I`m not against better management of the reef, of shipping traffic and of dredge spoil dumping, port expansion/development, etc, but I love the reef, I live up here so I can enjoy exploring it and I simply do not agree that it is in imminent danger of collapse. Certain areas are under more pressure than others or have suffered more recent cyclone damage than others and we do have periods of heavy rain that can lead to greater rates of coral bleaching than normal ( notice how that was the major concern last decade, coral bleaching? Not in the headlines at the mo because the conditions that lead to larger than natural bleaching ‘events’ haven`t returned yet) However, this does not mean that Australia cannot experience coal industry growth,a local seafood industry, recreational fishing/spearing AND tourism growth without destroying the reef.

    I would also point out that MY industry, tourism, is a part of the problem of reef damage and degradation and pollution, directly and indirectly, and I think that reef and island tourism operators should be very careful in what they say about impacts on the reef. You could be the next industry in the gun……

    PS-Why is it that the IPCC et al claim that rising temperatures are a MASSIVE threat to the existence of the GBR when
    the same species of fish and corals, etc, can live both off the coast at Gladstone, in the waters off the Daintree and just off shore in New Guinea, despite a temperature range of around 7 degrees Celsius…..?

    Reply
  • January 22, 2015 at 9:03 am
    Permalink

    Here is an article on the matter of oceans warming – http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/warm-oceans-drive-hottest-year-on-record-with-more-to-come-us-agencies-say-20150117-12sarz.html

    In regards to what Australians believe there is a report by The Climate Institute called Climate of the Nation 2013 – Australian attitudes on climate change.

    When analysing an election result I doubt that the experts put it down to isolating one very heavy politised policy among many and say this was the key factor in the outcome. It was part of the mix of a fear mongering campaign and with the abolition of the tax my electricity bill was slashed by a whopping 2%.

    Now if you want to know why power prices are as high as what they are read this:
    http://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2014/july/1404136800/jess-hill/power-corrupts

    Reply
  • January 22, 2015 at 3:37 pm
    Permalink

    Quotes statistical data regarding arrival figures but ignores scientific data. Classic. just because you live there does not make your eyewitness accounts anything but that. purely anecdotal. But hey knock yourself out. Those pesky scientists with their hidden agendas paid for by the new world order rolling in all the dollars that taxpayers give them in grants.

    Try reading the data, there is a wealth of it. The real data, not the stuff you find on the interweb forums – cut and paste and chinese whispered between dark aged religious groups and corporations with vested interests. Here is a start, if you can handle that it was written by the new world order who obviously are trying to take the world over with their global agendas http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg2/en/xccsc2-2.html

    and another http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/SYR_AR5_SPMcorr2.pdf

    Here’s a report from those extremist greens MCO – http://www.marineconservation.org.au/data/REEF_DREDGE_Doc_Spreads.pdf.

    Your post deserves to be ridiculed because it is ridiculous. Sadly the scared, old, bitter and just plain dumb may continue to be led astray by the rantings from other old, scared and dumb but I think mostly people are waking up. Don’t kid yourself that the dredging on land decision had anything to do with the government. It was a decision from the company due to overwhelming concerns and pressure from the community.

    The reef and this world belong to all of us – even the dimwitted. Wake up – do some reading ya twit.

    Reply

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