The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most well-known and iconic landmarks in Australia. It is the largest natural occurring feature on earth, extending more than 2,300km along the northeast coast of Queensland. The Reef is home to 1500 different species of fish, 300 species of sharks and rays, dugong and 30 other marine animals. There are six different species of turtle all of which are threatened. The reef, their home is in horrible danger of being extinct due to extensive coral bleaching and the human impact.
The Coral reef system is not just home to a large variety of sea life and marine organisms it’s a huge benefit to the environment and the ecosystem. It protects coastlines from destructive tropical storms and waves. Coral supplies nitrogen and carbon and recycles nutrients for animals, helping them survive. This reef belongs to all Australians and needs to be protected for future generations, it is responsible for supporting jobs and adding profit to the economy. “The Great Barrier Reef is valued at $56 billion as an Australian economic and social asset.”
The human effect on the coral reef has seen sea life species numbers drop. Evidence shows human activities, including over fishing, pollution, pesticides, oil spills, gases and rubbish are adjusting the marine environment. With impacts on the species numbers in decline the marine ecosystems may be disrupted from their natural state. The job of the reef is to maintain health to offshore and inshore ecosystems, human factors on the marine environment have seen this balance unsettled. Companies are thinking of expanding ports around the Great Barrier Reef, which would destroy the sea floor and increase shipping traffic. Some devastating effects have been:
• On the 3 April 2010 a Chinese Bulk coal carrier ran aground east of Rockhampton causing a major oil spill along a long the Great Barrier Reef.
• Human influences resulted in a 50% decline in coral cover between 1985 to 2012.
It could be said that ‘Humans are killing the reef!’ It’s not only the activities at sea that endanger the reef but also what happens on land. Our oceans are being used as a dumping ground for waste; such as sewage and industrial waste. Over a million Sea Birds each year die of plastic bags and marine debris. Sea Turtles often mistake floating plastic bags for jelly fish and eating them, choking on them going and dying. Human impact is destroying their home, giving them limited places to live in.
The Queensland Government has made a strong stand with 2050 Reef plan. This plan will connect local communities, science bodies and the Traditional owners with real targets and objectives for protecting the RE. The Great Barrier Reef Foundation focuses on projects that will boost the Reef now and, in the future, like projects to save endangered green turtles and restoring damaged reef ecosystems.
It’s up to us whether we decide to be part of the problem or say ‘Yes’ to helping with the solution.