It is all over the news, right across the world: the Great Barrier Reef is bleaching – again. Children can’t sleep at night: it is not only the war in the Ukraine keeping them awake at night, but also our apparent disregard for nature.
On 10th April 2022 I went to the very epicentre of the claimed latest severe mass coral bleaching, and found a coral wonderland.
There was some bleaching, especially around the perimeter of John Brewer Reef – on the sandy sea floor where the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) surveyed and concluded coral cover is never more than 30% – but most of John Brewer Reef is still covered in more than 80% colourful corals. This high percentage is denied by AIMS because they never survey the reef crest.
This coral reef, John Brewer Reef, has been described as one of the worst bleached by the ABC, The Conversation, and The Guardian. The Guardian uses the same photographs as the ABC which have been sourced from environmental group the WWF.
At John Brewer Reef just yesterday, I swam over the top – over the reef crest – and I also swam along the walls that drop down to the sandy sea floor.
I will show you some of the snap shots that I took with my Olympus TG6, no lights. I also swam around the sandy perimeter, and I will show you these photographs in my next blog post – that will be Part 2 of this series. In Part 3 and 4 I plan to show you video of transects that will be swum later in the week when I return to John Brewer Reef with one of Australia’s best underwater cinematographers.
John Brewer Reef is 70 kms (38 nautical miles) east of Townsville, part of the central region of the Great Barrier Reef. Rising from the sandy sea floor are two huge flat-topped blocks of consolidated limestone that represent layer upon layer of dead coral (that you can’t see) with a topping (that you can see) of colourful plates and so many tiny fish. Running between these two reefs is a deep canyon with walls of more coral and more fish.
While most of the corals at the reef crest were healthy, there were some corals that were bleaching white and others were bleaching colourful.
The pink to purple coloration in some of the corals at the reef crest is not from zooxanthellae, which are the symbiotic algae, but rather from increased pigment accumulation from the coral itself as the zooxanthellae are expelled. Zooxanthellae are expelled when the coral becomes stressed from water that is a bit too hot or a bit too cold. These colourful corals are often described as fluorescing.
******** The photograph at the very top of this blog post was taken just yesterday (10th April 2022) while I (Jennifer Marohasy) swam over the top of John Brewer Reef. The coral in the foreground is not bleached, but rather a beige-coloured and with naturally white tips. The very pink coral in the centre of the photograph is ‘bleaching colourful’. The pink to purple coloration in some of the corals at the reef crest is not from zooxanthellae, which are symbiotic algae, but rather from increased pigment accumulation from the host tissue/the coral itself as the zooxanthellae are expelled. This is often referred to as fluorescing and/or bleaching colourful.
The corals at the reef crest at John Brewer Reef that are bleaching colourful/fluorescing are likely to make a full recovery.
Frank Vardanega says
The facts set you free. Thanks.
Robert Onfray says
Thanks Jennifer. Love your work.
Bill hankin says
Jen this is a fantastic post!
Show us all your photos of the reef & how great it is !!
And here’s a tip : team up with the tourist operators on the GBR.
All the doom & gloom could put them out of business with all the fake ‘news’ being pushed by the alarmists.
So team up with them !
Get a major tourist campaign happening so all Australians & even foreign tourists can see the glorious truth for themselves.
Jennifer marohasy says
Bill, problem for tourism operators is they can’t offend GBRMPA (great barrier reef marine park authority) least they lose they permit to operate in GBRMPA waters. We are a very regulated (and corrupt) country.
Richard Bennett says
At least we can see what is actually happening to the coral and not the usual over hyped garbage that emanates from the gutters of the agenda driven media.
Bill Hankin says
Jem. If the tour operators all ( or even mostly ) stood together with you
In a major tourist campaign, the GBRMPA Ould be too bloody embasessed to play those stupid games !
Let the industry call the GBRMPA’s bluff !
Bob Fernley-Jones says
How I envy your experience!
Hopefully, The Honorable Sussan Ley, the environment minister, together with the visiting UN World Heritage Review Team will read and comprehend this!
David Forbes says
I dived at Wheeler Island and Eddy Reef off Mission Beach last week. There was about 2-3% newly bleached coral at Wheeler Island, some partially bleached, some fully. This was of staghorn and plate corals and at a depth of 3-5 m. At Eddy Reef there was no bleaching at all, coral depth of about 3-12 m.
Calling their bluff may work, but could be a risky strategy for those who have a lot to lose.
When I took over managing the Telford marine operation in the Whitsundays we had 2 big new high speed catamarans to do outer reef trips. I went on a reef trip to see what they were doing, & was totally horrified. I could see no reason why they had not already killed a tourist, & was quite sure it would happen sooner rather than later, the way it was run.
The skippers were nervous wrecks watching over up to 225 tourists who appeared totally intent on committing suicide. I knew a new operating system was required urgently, but had a problem. No one admitted to ownership of the region. The coming marine park had not been gazetted, & the old authorities of the Transport department & the Queensland Marine Dept were not interested in approving anything, with the park soon to be gazetted.
In desperation, before we killed someone, I drafted a letter to all & anyone government, & even near by harbor authorities who could possibly have an interest in our part of the reef, telling them exactly what I planned, & asking for an approval process. I got exactly zero replies.
Taking this as approval I installed the facility we needed, & later invited all authorities to visit, an offer some did as individuals, & others in groups.
I doubt you could get away quite as easily today, but you just might. The reef is still to some extent cowboy territory, & fortune may still favor the brave.
Why do they lie ? It is so easily checked. Are they so arrogant that even if they lie it will be taken as truth ?
Surely that is the height of corruption ?
Bazz, the problem is that the GBR proper ISN’T “easily checked”.