Ocean Action Hub

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Coral reefs 'at make or break point', UN environment head says

19 Jan 2018 - Erik Solheim cites ‘huge decline’ in world’s reefs but says shift from coal and new awareness of plastic pollution are good news.

19 Jan 2018 - The battle to save the world’s coral reefs is at “make or break point”, and countries that host them have a special responsibility to take a leadership role by limiting greenhouse gas emissions, plastic pollution and impacts from agriculture, the head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has said.

Speaking to the Guardian after the launch of International Coral Reef Initiative’s international year of the reef, Erik Solheim said he expected governments to take their efforts on reef protection in 2018 beyond symbolic designation.

“We expect governments to step up to concrete actions,” Solheim said.

To kick off ​ that effort, Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, has announced new protections ​for large portions of the Great Sea Reef, by nominating it a Ramsar site. The Ramsar Convention ​ gives protection to wetlands – including coral reefs – that are important for the conservation of global biodiversity and for sustaining human life.

Announcing the nomination, Bainimarama said it was shocking that this might be the last generation to witness the beauty of coral reefs.

“Today I appeal to every single person on Earth to help us. We must replace the present culture of abuse with a culture of care,” he said.

Solheim ​said another significant ​ step was ​taken this year when Belize imposed a moratorium on oil exploration and extraction in its waters – a move the Belizean prime minister said was ​a first for a developing country​.

“We have seen a huge decline in the reefs and that is absolutely serious,” Solheim said. “But there are also signs of change. We see now a huge global shfit from coal to solar and wind and that is very good news for our efforts to reduce the effects of climate change.

“And we have seen a huge shift in the awareness of the problem of plastic pollution,” he said, noting there have been many moves around the world to ban various forms of plastic pollution.

Solheim said that while the decline of reefs was a global problem that needed coodinated action, host countries ​had a special responsibility.

“We expect Australia and the Pacific Islands and the Carribbean to protect their coral reefs – they can do so much,” he said.

He called on Australia to do more to mitigate climate change.

“I strongly encourage Australia to transform its energy mix from coal to solar and wind and renewables – that is happening, but the faster it happens the better.”

Solheim said failure to act now would bring about a major catastrophe.

“Beyond the complete moral failure of destroying the enormous beauty and all the different species in the ocean living in the reefs, it would also be an economic disaster,” he said.

Estimates vary, but coral reefs around the world are thought to sustain the lives of about one billion people, ​ by supporting food sources, ​protecting coastlines or providing other economic support.

That is particularly ​true of developing countries, but reefs also support thousands of jobs in Australia, Solheim said.

“It would have a huge impact for Australia – the reduction of tourism, and an impact on the fishing industry. Tourism is the most rapidly growing business on the planet and a huge job provider. At a time when every nation is desperate for jobs, restoring reefs is fundamental to economic success everywhere.”

Unep also announced it would​ be working in collaboration with WWF to “drive an urgent response to combat the decline of coral.”

CONTINUE READING: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/19/coral-reefs-at-make-...

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'Coral bleaching is getting worse ... but the biggest problem is pollution'
27 Dec 2017 - Learn how UNDP is collaborating with Mexico to protect the western hemisphere's largest barrier reef from mass tourism and climate change effects.

27 Dec 2017 - Conservationists are battling to save the 700-mile Mesoamerican Barrier Reef in the Caribbean suffering the effects of mass tourism and climate change, The Guardian reports.

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere – an underwater wilderness stretching over 700 miles along the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.

One of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the Americas, the reef is home to a dazzling variety of coral and more than 500 species of fish, and provides a livelihood for more than a million people. But now, a combination of mass tourism and poor waste management has left the reef increasingly vulnerable to climate change, placing this natural wonder in serious trouble.

“Throughout the Caribbean, we have seen a massive decrease in coral coverage,” says Michael Webster, executive director of the Coral Reef Alliance, a nonprofit organisation that works on reef conservation in Honduras. “Whereas we might have had 60-70% coral coverage in the past, now it’s down to 5-10% in places.”

Now, the rapidly changing climate could make the damage even worse. “We’re seeing these huge variations in rainfall, temperature, weather,” says Amanda Acosta, executive director of the Belize Audubon Society, a nonprofit responsible for managing reefs off the coast of Belize. “In 2012, we had massive rainfall,” she says. “Last year, we had no rain at all. And in the summer, the sea was as warm as a bath pan.”

The impacts of these rapid weather changes are already being witnessed across the reef system. Jesús Arias-González, a researcher at the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico, conducted a study of the entire region last year and found 22% of the coral colonies presented signs of bleaching from elevated sea temperatures. The bleaching could soon get worse: in September the US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began issuing coral bleaching alerts all along the Mesoamerican Reef. While cooler winter waters have since decreased alert levels, such warming events will likely increase as global weather patterns change.

But although this level of damage is concerning, for many scientists who spoke to the Guardian the more pressing threat is mass tourism. “Climate change happens long term,” Arias-González says. “The massive development happening right now is much more dangerous.”

“The bleaching is certainly getting worse every year,” says Vanessa Francisco, a field officer with Resiliencia, a collaboration between the United Nations Development Programme and the Mexican government to strengthen natural protected areas against the effects of climate change. “But the biggest problem we have is pollution.”

CONTINUE READING HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/27/coral-bleaching-is-getting-worse-but-the-biggest-problem-is-pollution

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The eco guide to ocean waste

4 Sep 2017 - Plastic pollution in our seas is depressing – but there are imaginative moves afoot to address the problem.

4 Sep 2017 - I’ve been sceptical about the power of running shoes to affect global change. So naturally I had it in for UltraBoost Uncaged Parley, Adidas trainers that claim to make peace with the ocean. The shoe’s upper is created from plastic waste retrieved from a clean-up operation in the Maldives, and recycled polyester. But Adidas has committed to producing a million pairs of these ocean waste running shoes, and a swimwear line.

Meanwhile, Spanish clothing company Ecoalf works with 2,000 Spanish fishermen who collect 4-5kg of deep-sea plastic waste alongside their daily catch, to be spun into new yarn. And we can look forward to seeing the fabric Econyl on labels in the future (regenerated from fishing nets and second-hand carpets) in Italy, as it becomes mainstream.

New Zealand flip-flops company Subs grinds up plastic waste from beach cleans, but also upcycles old shoes so that materials can be sustained indefinitely. Every pair of flip-flops removes 0.52kg of plastic from the sea. That is, it has to be said, a very small dent on the 12.7m tonnes of plastic entering the ocean each year. I also worry about the effectiveness of scooping ocean waste from the surface, given that average ocean depth is 1.2km.

But a recent report analysing all mass-produced plastics has reassured me. It tells us that almost all plastic ever created still exists in some form. So most of the ideas we’ve had to get rid of it have failed, spectacularly.

Innovation with huge global appeal is therefore pretty critical. The level of innovation here is also impressive: regenerating marine debris degraded by the sun and wind and ocean currents is no mean feat. Nor is taking a resource of no value and turning it into something so desired that fishing fleets could use it to supplement their income.

The big picture: navigating the Arctic melting pot

It was the record nobody wanted: Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica took just 24 days to travel 6,215 miles from Alaska to Greenland, sailing through the Northwest Passage to arrive on 29 July, earlier than ever before. The timings of the voyage were made possible by the fact that Arctic ice melts earlier each year. The voyage and the great melt were experienced and documented by a crew of scientific researchers.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/03/the-eco-guide-to-oce...

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Fish mistaking plastic debris in ocean for food, study finds

16 Aug 2017 - Behavioural evidence suggests marine organisms are not just ingesting microplastics by accident but actively seeking them out as food.

16 Aug 2017 - Fish may be actively seeking out plastic debris in the oceans as the tiny pieces appear to smell similar to their natural prey, new research suggests.

The fish confuse plastic for an edible substance because microplastics in the oceans pick up a covering of biological material, such as algae, that mimics the smell of food, according to the study published on Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Scientists presented schools of wild-caught anchovies with plastic debris taken from the oceans, and with clean pieces of plastic that had never been in the ocean. The anchovies responded to the odours of the ocean debris in the same way as they do to the odours of the food they seek.

The scientists said this was the first behavioural evidence that the chemical signature of plastic debris was attractive to a marine organism, and reinforces other work suggesting the odour could be significant.

The finding demonstrates an additional danger of plastic in the oceans, as it suggests that fish are not just ingesting the tiny pieces by accident, but actively seeking them out.

Matthew Savoca, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and lead author of the study, told the Guardian: “When plastic floats at sea its surface gets colonised by algae within days or weeks, a process known as biofouling. Previous research has shown that this algae produces and emits DMS, an algal based compound that certain marine animals use to find food. [The research shows] plastic may be more deceptive to fish than previously thought. If plastic both looks and smells like food, it is more difficult for animals like fish to distinguish it as not food.”

Plastic debris in the oceans, ranging from the microscopic to large visible pieces, is recognised as a growing problem as it does not readily degrade and hundreds of thousands of tonnes are dumped in the sea annually. Larger pieces have been found in the intestines of whales and seabirds, where they are thought to be potentially fatal, while the smallest pieces have been detected in the guts of even juvenile fish and molluscs. Numerous species of fish eaten by humans have been found to contain plastic, and the effect of eating these on human health is still unknown.

Efforts to reduce marine plastic have so far had little effect: microbeads widely used in cosmetics and other products have been banned in the US, the UK and other countries, but they only solve part of the problem, which is mainly caused by dumping of plastic rubbish. There could be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050, campaigners have warned.

Scientists have struggled to understand exactly how the massive increase in plastics may be affecting the behaviour of fish and marine ecosystems, and how to contain the problem.

A previous paper published in the journal Science that alleged juvenile fish were attracted to microplastics “like teenagers after junk food” was withdrawn earlier this year after controversy. The scientists involved in that paper, who have no relation to the authors of today’s study, were suspected of having exaggerated their data or failed to carry out the purported experiments properly. The new paper did not draw on that publication.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/16/fish-confusing-plast...

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Planet’s addiction to plastic bottles ‘as dangerous as climate change’

31 July 2017 - A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some campaigners predict wi

31 July 2017 - A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change. EURACTIV’s partner The Guardian reports.

New figures obtained by The Guardian reveal the surge in usage of plastic bottles, more than half a trillion of which will be sold annually by the end of the decade.

The demand, equivalent to about 20,000 bottles being bought every second, is driven by an apparently insatiable desire for bottled water and the spread of a western, urbanised “on the go” culture to China and the Asia Pacific region.

More than 480bn plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2016 across the world, up from about 300bn a decade ago. If placed end to end, they would extend more than halfway to the sun.

By 2021 this will increase to 583.3bn, according to the most up-to-date estimates from Euromonitor International’s global packaging trends report.

Most plastic bottles used for soft drinks and water are made from polyethylene terephthalate (Pet), which is highly recyclable. But as their use soars across the globe, efforts to collect and recycle the bottles to keep them from polluting the oceans, are failing to keep up.

Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead most plastic bottles produced end up in landfill or in the ocean.

Between 5m and 13m tonnes of plastic leaks into the world’s oceans each year to be ingested by sea birds, fish and other organisms, and by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish, according to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Experts warn that some of it is already finding its way into the human food chain.

Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium recently calculated people who eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year.

Last August, the results of a study by the UK’s Plymouth University reported plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish, including cod, haddock, mackerel and shellfish.

Last year, the European Food Safety Authority called for urgent research, citing increasing concern for human health and food safety “given the potential for microplastic pollution in edible tissues of commercial fish”.

Celebrated yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur now campaigns to promote a circular economy in which plastic bottles are reused, refilled and recycled rather than used once and thrown away.

“Shifting to a real circular economy for plastics is a massive opportunity to close the loop, save billions of dollars, and decouple plastics production from fossil fuel consumption,” she said.

Hugo Tagholm, of the marine conservation and campaigning group Surfers Against Sewage, said the figures were devastating. “The plastic pollution crisis rivals the threat of climate change as it pollutes every natural system and an increasing number of organisms on planet Earth.

“Current science shows that plastics cannot be usefully assimilated into the food chain. Where they are ingested they carry toxins that work their way on to our dinner plates.”

Surfers Against Sewage are campaigning for a refundable deposit scheme to be introduced in the UK as a way of encouraging reuse.

Tagholm added: “While the production of throwaway plastics has grown dramatically over the last 20 years, the systems to contain, control, reuse and recycle them just haven’t kept pace.”

In the UK 38.5m plastic bottles are used every day – only just over half make it to recycling, while more than 16m are put into landfill, burnt or leak into the environment and oceans each day.

“Plastic production is set to double in the next 20 years and quadruple by 2050 so the time to act is now,” said Tagholm.

There has been growing concern about the impact of plastics pollution in oceans around the world. Last month scientists found nearly 18 tonnes of plastic on one of the world’s most remote islands, an uninhabited coral atoll in the South Pacific.

Another study of remote Arctic beaches found they were also heavily polluted with plastic, despite small local populations. And earlier this week scientists warned that plastic bottles and other packaging are overrunning some of the UK’s most beautiful beaches and remote coastline, endangering wildlife from basking sharks to puffins.

The majority of plastic bottles used across the globe are for drinking water, according to Rosemary Downey, head of packaging at Euromonitor and one of the world’s experts in plastic bottle production.

China is responsible for most of the increase in demand. The Chinese public’s consumption of bottled water accounted for nearly a quarter of global demand, she said.

“It is a critical country to understand when examining global sales of plastic Pet bottles, and China’s requirement for plastic bottles continues to expand,” said Downey.

In 2015, consumers in China purchased 68.4bn bottles of water and in 2016 this increased to 73.8bn bottles, up 5.4bn.

“This increase is being driven by increased urbanisation,” said Downey. “There is a desire for healthy living and there are ongoing concerns about groundwater contamination and the quality of tap water, which all contribute to the increase in bottle water use,” she said. India and Indonesia are also witnessing strong growth.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.euractiv.com/section/circular-economy/news/planets-addiction...

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If you drop plastic in the ocean, where does it end up?

29 June 2017 - Modelling shows that ocean currents can concentrate slow-degrading debris in certain parts of the world’s oceans, leading to so-called ‘garbage patches’

29 June 2017 - It is estimated that between four and 12m metric tonnes of plastic makes its way into the ocean each year. This figure is only likely to rise, and a 2016 report predicted that by 2050 the amount of plastic in the sea will outweigh the amount of fish.

A normal plastic bottle takes about 450 years to break down completely, so the components of a bottle dropped in the ocean today could still be polluting the waters for our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren.

A lot of plastic debris in the ocean breaks down into smaller pieces and is ingested by marine life, and it is thought that a significant amount sinks to the sea bed. But a lot of it just floats around, and thanks to sophisticated modelling of ocean currents using drifting buoys, we can see where much of it ends up.

Oceanographer Erik van Sebille has shown that, thanks to strong ocean currents known as gyres, huge amounts of plastic end up in six “garbage patches” around the world, the largest one being in the north Pacific.

As can be seen in the image above, a bottle dropped in the water off the coast of China, near Shanghai, is likely be carried eastward by the north Pacific gyre and end up circulating a few hundred miles off the coast of the US.

A bottle dropped off the Mexican coast, near Acapulco, is likely to be caught in the same gyre. Some of the plastic waste drifts south, but a huge amount is swept west towards Asia before floating north and ending up in the same area – the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The North Atlantic is home to another powerful current. The image below shows what happens to plastic debris that enters the ocean around New York. Initially a lot of it heads over to Europe, with concentration in the Bay of Biscay and, to a lesser extent, the North Sea, but the majority is trapped by the current and ends up floating in the middle of the ocean.

It’s a similar story in the UK. A bottle dropped in the sea off Cornwall may well be dragged through the channel towards Scandinavia, but the greatest concentrations are again in the Bay of Biscay and the western North Atlantic.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/29/if-you-drop-plastic-...

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New study confirms the oceans are warming rapidly

26 June 2017 - Although there’s some uncertainty in the distribution among Earth’s ocean basins, there’s no question that the ocean is heating rapidly.

26 June 2017 - As humans put ever more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, the Earth heats up. These are the basics of global warming. But where does the heat go? How much extra heat is there? And how accurate are our measurements? These are questions that climate scientists ask. If we can answer these questions, it will better help us prepare for a future with a very different climate. It will also better help us predict what that future climate will be.

The most important measurement of global warming is in the oceans. In fact, “global warming” is really “ocean warming.” If you are going to measure the changing climate of the oceans, you need to have many sensors spread out across the globe that take measurements from the ocean surface to the very depths of the waters. Importantly, you need to have measurements that span decades so a long-term trend can be established. 

These difficulties are tackled by oceanographers, and a significant advancement was presented in a paper just published in the journal Climate Dynamics. That paper, which I was fortunate to be involved with, looked at three different ocean temperature measurements made by three different groups. We found that regardless of whose data was used or where the data was gathered, the oceans are warming.

In the paper, we describe perhaps the three most important factors that affect ocean-temperature accuracy. First, sensors can have biases (they can be “hot” or “cold”), and these biases can change over time. An example of biases was identified in the 1940s. Then, many ocean temperature measurements were made using buckets that gathered water from ships. Sensors put into the buckets would give the water temperature. Then, a new temperature sensing approach started to come online where temperatures were measured using ship hull-based sensors at engine intake ports. It turns out that bucket measurements are slightly cooler than measurements made using hull sensors, which are closer to the engine of the ship.

During World War II, the British Navy cut back on its measurements (using buckets) and the US Navy expanded its measurements (using hull sensors); consequently, a sharp warming in oceans was seen in the data. But this warming was an artifact of the change from buckets to hull sensors. After the war, when the British fleet re-expanded its bucket measurements, the ocean temperatures seemed to fall a bit. Again, this was an artifact from the data collection. Other such biases and artifacts arose throughout the years as oceanographers have updated measurement equipment. If you want the true rate of ocean temperature change, you have to remove these biases.

Currently, we are heavily using the ARGO fleet, which contains approximately 3800 autonomous devices spread out more or less uniformly across the ocean, but these only entered service in 2005. Prior to that, temperatures measurements were not uniform in the oceans. As a consequence, scientists have to use what is called a “mapping” procedure to interpolate temperatures between temperature measurements. Sort of like filling in the gaps where no data exist. The mapping strategy used by scientists can affect the ocean temperature measurements.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/20...

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We only have 20 years to save the oceans

15 May 2017 - A revolution in thinking is needed to protect this vital commons.

15 May 2017 - The oceans are alarmingly unhealthy and getting sicker fast. At first, crises were localised, as in the collapse of Newfoundland cod and the lifeless dead zone in the Baltic Sea due to runoff of agricultural waste. Now the problems are global.

Ocean fisheries have been pushed past the limit for the 1 billion people who have no readily available protein substitute, and worldwide there are now more than 400 marine dead zones - areas starved of oxygen – up from 49 in the 1960s. Global piracy, modern slavery, and a lawless supply chain are disguising the source, species, and healthiness of one fifth of global seafood. In 2012, almost three in five of 81 retail outlets sampled in New York City were found to be selling flagrantly mislabelled fish.

Rapidly warming and rising seas are powering stronger hurricanes and storm surges, eating away at our coastal lands and cities, presenting the ominous prospect of hundreds of millions of climate refugees within the next few decades. The UN’s sustainable development goals for the environment, biodiversity, and human wellbeing will be impossible to achieve – with severe consequences for people and the global commons – unless we turn things around very fast.

Fisheries present the most obvious solutions. Over 80% of the global fleet makes zero or negative profit, and is propped up by about $35bn (£27bn) in annual subsidies. Removing subsidies would dramatically decrease fishing fleets by roughly 60%; stocks would immediately rebound. Surprisingly few jobs would be lost because most are in small-scale fisheries with few, if any, subsidies. Fish catches in developing countries would stay closer to home, where people need them most, instead of being siphoned off to the US, Europe, and Japan.

Rebuilding depleted fisheries involves eliminating harmful fishing practices and establishing large marine protected areas to provide refuges. There have been important breakthroughs, including the 1990s United Nations ban on high seas drift nets to reduce the harmful bycatch of sea turtles and dolphins, though law-breaking remains a major threat. The UN also nearly passed a global ban on deep-sea trawling in 2006 and, despite this initial failure, the movement is still very much alive. In 2016, the European parliament banned all trawling below 800 metres in EU waters, as well as fishing in areas with vulnerable ecosystems.

The US, Australia, and the UK have established huge marine protected areas in the Indo-Pacific, and the international Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources designated the Ross Sea as the world’s largest marine protected area (MPA) in 2016. The total proportion of the oceans in MPAs still hovers around 3%, with only 1% closed to fishing – but they provide critically important refuges for an enormous variety of species and the trends are moving in the right direction.

Closing the high seas to fishing would make financial as well as conservation sense. Bordering countries would make up for lost income from spillover into their national exclusive economic zones: more than 99% of high seas fisheries exploit species also caught in them. Only the half dozen wealthy countries that dominate the high seas fishery would lose out. Developing countries, which lack the resources to participate in high seas fisheries that reduce their stocks, would benefit and global income inequality from fisheries would halve.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.theguardian.com/the-gef-partner-zone/2017/may/12/we-only-have-20-years-to-save-the-oceans#img-1

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Great Barrier Reef tourism: caught between commerce and conservation alarm

17 Apr 2017 - More people than ever are coming to see the reef and those who make a living showing it off want the world to know it’s still a natural wonder. But they worry about its future, and that of their 64,000-strong industry.

17 Apr 2017 - In the dark clouds gathering over the future of the Great Barrier Reef, there has been a small silver lining for the people who make their living showcasing the natural wonder.

When the reef was rocked by an unprecedented second mass bleaching event in the space of a year, the coral hardest-hit by heat stress lay mostly in the tourist-heavy latitudes between Cairns and Townsville.

But despite last year’s damage compounded by new cases dotted across 800 reefs in a 1,500km stretch, not a single reef tourism operator has been forced to seek out new ground to take visitors.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which licenses operators to visit designated reef sites, confirmed it has received one request to change a permit. And that was not because of bleaching but Cyclone Debbie further south, which damaged that other hub of reef tourism, the Whitsundays after it escaped the bleaching.

By an accident of geography, the tourist operators say, the most wondrous sites for public viewing, which tend to fall on the edge of the continental shelf near cooler, deeper waters, are the ones also spared the worst damage from bleaching.

For now at least.

“Look, if we get another year of this, we’ll be in an absolute world of hurt and I know that,” Col McKenzie, chief executive of the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators says.

Just 7% of the reef is set aside for tourism. But McKenzie says he is frustrated that “the story being put out there that there’s been severe bleaching throughout the whole area: it’s just not true”.

Aerial surveys released by scientists on 10 April showed back-to-back bleaching had occurred in a range along two-thirds of the world’s largest living structure. It indicated bleaching levels of more than 60% of coral this time were concentrated in reefs between Port Douglas and Townsville. It was the fourth mass bleaching to hit the reef in recorded history – all since 1998 – and coral scientists are alarmed the increasing regularity of these events gives stressed coral precious little chance to recover.

After last year’s bleaching, which killed off 22% of coral mainly in the isolated northern section of the reef, US magazine Outside went so far as to run an obituary on the reef: “25 million BC - 2016”.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/17/great-barrier-reef-t...

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Great Barrier Reef at 'terminal stage': Scientists despair at latest coral bleaching - The Guardian
9 Apr 2017 - ‘Last year was bad enough, this is a disaster,’ says one expert as Australia Research Council finds fresh damage across 8,000km
Back-to-back severe bleaching events have affected two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, new aerial surveys have found. The findings have caused alarm among scientists, who say the proximity of the 2016 and 2017 bleaching events is unprecedented for the reef, and will give damaged coral little chance to recover. Australia's politicians have betrayed the Great Barrier Reef and only the people can save it David Ritter Read more Scientists with the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies last week completed aerial surveys of the world’s largest living structure, scoring bleaching at 800 individual coral reefs across 8,000km. The results show the two consecutive mass bleaching events have affected a 1,500km stretch, leaving only the reef’s southern third unscathed. Where last year’s bleaching was concentrated in the reef’s northern third, the 2017 event spread further south, and was most intense in the middle section of the Great Barrier Reef. This year’s mass bleaching, second in severity only to 2016, has occurred even in the absence of an El Niño event. Mass bleaching – a phenomenon caused by global warming-induced rises to sea surface temperatures – has occurred on the reef four times in recorded history. Prof Terry Hughes, who led the surveys, said the length of time coral needed to recover – about 10 years for fast-growing types – raised serious concerns about the increasing frequency of mass bleaching events. “The significance of bleaching this year is that it’s back to back, so there’s been zero time for recovery,” Hughes told the Guardian. “It’s too early yet to tell what the full death toll will be from this year’s bleaching, but clearly it will extend 500km south of last year’s bleaching.” READ FULL STORY HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/10/great-barrier-reef-t... VIDEO EXPLAINER: How did the Great Barrier Reef reach ‘terminal stage’?: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2017/apr/10/great-barrier-...
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