9th November 2016
Having been snorkelling and diving the Whitsundays for over 20 years, GM of operations for Cruise Whitsundays Gary Kilby is baffled by international media reporting the demise of the Great Barrier Reef. Having been up close and personal with the reefs over the Whitsundays, Kilby says Hardy Reef is in the best condition he's seen in over two decades.
While Kilby acknowledges that natural threats like Drupella Snails, Crown of Thorns and weather and temperature are ongoing, he's been disappointed by the negative reports about the reef, adamant that the reef in the Whitsundays is still well and truly alive and as beautiful as ever. In addition to Hardy Reef, Whitsundays cruises and sailing also visit Knuckle Reef and fringing island reefs as part of their diverse tour options, including active onboard marine biologists.
Despite reports of coral bleaching by international media, local tourism operators have found little to no damage to the coral reefs in areas of operation. This is backed by a surveillance program undertaken by the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators in September 2016, which found the primary damage was as a result of storm damage due to the steep slope of the site which is dominated by branch coral.
Queensland Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles said it was "pretty easy to see why tourists from all over the world flock here". Also frustrated by the irresponsible reports in the media, Dr Miles confirmed that the Whitsundays had escaped the coral bleaching event, with the most severe damage occurring in a remote part of the marine park further north.
"The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's preliminary findings indicate a coral mortality of 22% but they are doing more surveys this month," he said. Climate change and an unusually strong El Nino caused record-breaking sea surface temperatures which triggered the coral bleaching event and while he said the damage in the north was saddening, he was quick to remind us how resilient the reef is, with recent studies showing that the three years before the bleaching event saw an increase of coral cover by 19 per cent across the marine park.