The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) have been tasked with reporting on the state of the corals and coral cover at the Great Barrier Reef. They surveyed John Brewer Reef by underwater manta tow in March 2022, made no mention of any coral bleaching in that report, and stated coral cover to be just 21.8%. There are no photographs.
That is how I began a blog post on 14th April 2022.
I included the chart from the March underwater survey in that blog post with the caption, AIMS have large ships to survey the corals, but they don’t employ professional underwater photographers who might show us the true state of the corals including at the reef crest where coral cover is often more than 80%.
I had dived John Brewer Reef earlier that week, on 10th and 12th April and I was so impressed with the reef – the colourful corals, the number of fish, and the extent of coral cover over much of the reef crest.
I was finding it difficult to reconcile what was in the AIMS report from their underwater survey with what I had observed.
I found it impossible to reconcile what I had observed with the results of their aerial survey claiming major coral bleaching. The aerial survey was undertaken by Neil Cantin.
The results from the aerial surveys, as reported in a series of social media posts by David Wachenfeld from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), generated worldwide media headlines suggesting that this coral reef (John Brewer Reef) was dead and dying.
Yet I had never seen a more colourful coral reef, and the fish were exquisite not to mention the white tipped reef shark, nudibranchs, sea anemones and so on.
John Liston, the head of communications at AIMS, got in touch with me by way of a phone call on 19th April. He pointed out that there were photographs from the AIMS underwater survey, and that it was incorrect of me to suggest otherwise. I was subsequently provided with four underwater photographs none of which showed any coral bleaching.
During that, and subsequent communications with AIMS, I asked for clarification regarding the under-water survey that reported no bleaching and results from the aerial survey that reported up to 60% bleaching for this same reef for the same period – March 2022.
I also asked for photographic evidence of the bleaching from the aerial survey.
No clarifications or evidence of bleaching was ever forthcoming.
To be clear, the AIMS underwater survey of 6th March 2022 made no mention of bleaching in the corresponding report with chart. It is mandatory that any bleaching be reported as part of the survey process. Bleaching at this reef was reported in 2017.
The AIMS and GBRMPA aerial survey, also undertaken in March 2022, reported bleaching at John Brewer Reef to be in the order of 31 to 60% but provided no photographs or other evidence to support the claim.
I have requested interviews with Drs Neil Cantin (responsible for the aerial survey) and also Mike Emslie (responsible for the underwater survey) to discuss the discrepancies, but these interview requests have been repeatedly denied.
A faux fact check by Eiddwen Jeffery from RMIT University quotes Mike Emslie as stating that the most recently survey found coral bleaching to be ‘major to severe’. In fact, Dr Emslie’s official report from the underwater survey published online reports no bleaching.
Results from underwater survey are here:
Results from aerial survey are here:
The feature photograph (very top) shows me in the water at John Brewer Reef on 10th July 2022.
When the next severe El Nino develops the media will be awash with stories about the impending death of the reef due to climate change. With La Nińa ascendant they seem to be a little subdued. Thanks for the beautiful photos of a healthy reef.
Luke Hargreaves says
We now have the national State of the Environment report to add to the agenda driven science. This should not be called the Anthropocene but rather the epoch of the bastardisation of science to fulfil political ideology and minority agendas.
Keep at em Jennifer, it is a misnomer to call them scientists they are simply “Rent Seekers” looking for their share of any handouts.
Dr Christine Finlay says
Ah yes, GBRMPA, AIMs and JCU paid reef hierarchy claim it must have some sort of freak event driven by the lure of beautiful coral and fish that Jennifer miraculously stumbled on freakishly healthy reef. She must have just swum wherever it looked beautiful and avoided the large tracts of dead bits according to their logic. 78.2% of this reef is dead they claim. Furthermore, these dead reef claims are from a hierarchy dependent on and defending funding from their save the reef campaign. This campaign asserted that 50% of the entirity of the GBR is dead after claiming a few years ago that 95% of northern barrier reef was dead. So, according to their logic, it was a sheer fluke that Jennifer could not find any signs of vast tracts of dead reef. Nor does the hierarchy explain why their own dead reef figures vary so much. However, a lot of of people including Jennifer have over many decades had a good look at John Brewer, including its slopes and found no sign of vast tracts of dead coral cover. I wonder if it is defamatory for the hierarchy to then claim that Jennifer’s findings lack scientific validity? The hierarchy claim their methods are valid although they only take samples of the reef’s periphery and have varying contradictory claims about how much of the Great Barrier Reef is dead. They also state that Jennifer’s argument that looking at the health of John Brewer alone can’t be extrapolated to generalise about the entire GBR. But as Brewer has a circumference of about 15km how can the hierarchy claim with scientific validity that 79.2% of john Brewer is dead by only looking at its periphery? Why doesn’t anyone, (except those dependent financially on the dead reef hypothesis) find the Brewer’s periphery is mostly dead?
Dr Christine Finlay says
OOPSY a typo!!! The hierarchy claim that 78.2% of JB is dead not 79.2% as I stated in last post.
Warwick Wakefield says
There is a widespread belief that “climate change is killing the Great Barrier Reef.”
The real significance of this belief is that it supports the larger belief, that humankind is basically sinful, and is destroying the world.
A corollary of this is that humankind, society, must perform austerities, like paying through the nose for unreliable power, in order to atone for our sinfulness.
This belief is held with great fervour, a fervour merging into fanaticism.
The great majority of well intentioned folk will not have their religious belief weakened by the findings of a small group of independent researchers, but still we who are not Believers are hugely thankful to you for bringing in light and spreading truth.
Dr Christine Finlay says
Further reasons the hierarchy gives to claim Jennifer’s observations lack scientific validity is the argument that Jennifer’s observations are subjective because she snorkelled following parts of the reef that looked beautiful and swimming away from vast tracts of dead reef. It would be most unlikely that Jennifer’s random trips on the reef totally contradict the dying reef hypothesis if the hypothesis is valid. Usually, when examiners read a doctoral thesis they are assured that descriptions of raw data are truthful as supervisors have monitored data gathering to ensure it follows hitherto iron-clad rules for research validity. To be valid, the raw data must support the research findings. There should be a pattern of raw data confirming and reconfirming the research findings to establish validity in order to generalise. Further to the hierarchy’s problems with generalising from manta-towing the slopes on the reef periphery (and ignoring the crests where reef populations predominate) is the contradiction of claiming that Jennifer’s findings are subjective because she is a diver while manta-tow is valid is the problem that manta-tow techniques use the observations of a diver, snorkelling who is towed. Unlike Jennifer’s work, manta-towing takes no photos – just the observations of a diver who is compromised becasue of their dependence on the save reef campaign funding. Jennifer lacks the AIMS, JCU and GBRMPA resources to study the reef using the more accurate intersect method that the hierarchy avoids, but in her tenacious excursions onto the reef she found strong reason to refute the varying claims of vast tracts of dead and dying reef. In one of those excursions she must surely have stumbled on a vast tract of dead reef if the dead reef claims are valid, but no this did not happen. As with most people on random snorkels on John Brewer, absolutely no vast tracts of dead reef whatsover are to be found.
If the claims by AIMS and other catastrophists were about a miracle medication I’m sure it couldn’t be published unless there was evidence available to check. The $billions they want gov/public to spend needs a lot of accountability.
It shouldn’t be left to “take our word for it”. GPS start/end/path, date, time, video or photo every 3 to 10 seconds (decide on a standard), lab notes. Academics/public should be able to apply for access. Need audit office or some other way to enforce academic standards (or bring these accusations to a court & a judge).
Marohasy has provided a lot of detail & photo evidence to support her claims. If AIMS or other researchers are so confident in their results then they should not fear closer inspection.
In a court of law, the absence of evidence means the unsupported claims are untrustworthy. They maybe hearsay, non-expert opinion or considered lies. We should be allowed to not trust any claims they are unwilling/unable to give evidence to support it. No matter their eminence, why let corners be cut?
Arthur Day says
Forgive me for stating the obvious but the bottom line is can the claims of catastrophic reef-wide bleaching be independently reproduced? Without an objective recording method such as systematic photography of both the underwater and aerial surveys that the reef-wide bleaching claims are being based on, how can the conclusions be independently tested by multiple disinterested observers. In any other field of science this absence of supporting data would be a major red flag and there would be a lot of criticism from peers. But there is none. Why not?
In the normal course of scientific peer review, publishing reef-wide bleaching maps like those shown with no supporting data would result in rejection if these were in a paper being submitted to a respected scientific journal — assuming the peer review process was working properly. If photographic proof exists then why can’t it be released for all to see as hard evidence that Jennifer is wrong?
Karl Penna says
Funny how they won’t provide evidence and meet with you. Many thanks for the first class info
Don Berrie says
An interesting little snippet in an ABC news article(https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-08-04/great-barrier-reef-report-says-coral-recovering-after-bleaching/101296186) at nearly the end of the article:
Documents obtained by the ABC under Freedom of Information laws revealed the Morrison government had forced AIMS to rush the report’s release and orchestrated a “leak” of the material to select media outlets ahead of the reef being considered for inclusion on the World Heritage In Danger list.
Coverage in those outlets then included an opinion piece by an academic who is critical of science linking climate change to coral bleaching.
Maybe this is referring to you Jennifer?