The Great Barrier Reef
WARNING: Preachy Eco-Tourism Blog Article to follow.
The Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, is somewhere that I’d been wanting to go to for a long time. I was desperate to go because I’d heard that the reef was dying at an alarming rate. Due to the decrease of the Ozone layer the sun is burning up the coral in the shallower waters and it has become dry, bleached and brittle and is snapping off. Not only that but a number of other threats have been slowly damaging the reef such as the introduced crown of thorns starfish, overfishing, pollution, agricultural wastes and wastes from tourism are also rapidly affecting the reef.
So for all these reasons I thought it was about time to see a place in Australia that I knew I would love and wouldn’t have too much longer to see. And it didn’t disappoint me. I did road trip from Sydney to Cairns over winter (less jellyfish and crocodiles) stopping on tropical islands and white sand beaches along the way. You can see the full road trip article here.
While there, I did enough snorkelling to last me a lifetime. I saw every kind of fish, stingrays, groper, turtles, whales and a whale calf and some of the most gorgeous, pristine coral. You can either take a tour boat, which will take you to various snorkelling highlights, or do snorkelling off-beach, which in certain areas is just as amazing. Here is a video I made out of a collection of footage I captured when snorkelling and diving on the Reef:
Upon returning to Sydney I then had the pleasure of doing a free tour on the Rainbow Warrior – Greenpeaces’ purpose built campaigning ship. On board the ship I was told something about the reef that I didn’t know about and that could be even more devastating to the reef than any of the threats listed above. Despite pleas from the UN World Heritage Committee to protect the Reef, the coal industry have proposed to built 9 new coal terminals on the reef; making it one of the biggest coal exports in the world.
“If these terminals are built, millions of cubic meters of sea floor will be dredged and thousands more coal ships will carve their way through the Reef every year. Mining expansion will also mean more coal is burnt, helping to drive the most serious threats to the Reef: climate change and ocean acidification.” – Greenpeace; savethereef.org.au
With thousands more coal ships navigating their way through the shallow waters of the reef the risk of one of these ships running aground and causing an oil spill is severely heightened. Any major oil spill in this area would be absolutely devastating to the animals and plant life that call the reef home.
Not only this, but it could all be for no reason. The terminals are not a sustainable income, whereas tourism is. Coal is not a sustainable source of energy, and already major economic players in the world are finding new ways of using renewable energy. Sure Australia would make a lot of money from the coal in the short term but in the long term after the Reef has been destroyed we will have lost a major source for tourism. Tourism to the Reef has increased by 25% in the last 10 years. We should be prioritising the long-term health of the Reef for tourism over the short-term economic gains of coal mining to ensure an economically sustainable future for Queensland and Australia.
Last year Tony Burke the Federal Environment Minister, approved a new coal terminal for Abbots Point, right in the middle of the reef. Hopefully this is the last of the destructive environmental decisions regarding the reef. If you would like to find out some ways of helping to protect the reef please visit:
Other Tips for Protecting the Reef during your travels:
Only use Environmentally Safe Travel & Hygiene Products – Nowadays, many hygiene products; such as body-wash, shampoo, sanitary pads and sunscreen (to name just a few!), contain chemicals or packaging that are harmful to the marine ecosystem, when they inevitably make their way into it.
However, you can buy responsibly designed alternatives that are environmentally friendly both on land and within the ocean. Head on over to awastefreeworld where you can choose from a great selection of plastic free travel products that are also free of environmentally harmful chemicals.
Be careful what you eat! Not all seafood is caught in an environmentally friendly manner. Trawl fishing involves sinking vast, rake like trawls to the bottom of the seabed and dragging them along it to scoop up huge catches of fish.
When this happens, in addition to catching an unsustainably high percentage of the target catch, many other species including sharks, turtles and dolphins are also caught and killed to, before being thrown back over the boat.
In addition to this, huge areas of coral are completely demolished by the trawls, ruining the local marine ecosystem in any area that is fished in this way. Ideally, you should only eat local, line caught fish. Avoid endangered species like swordfish, marlin and bluefin tuna completely.
Go Eco Diving – With PADI, you can actually embark upon scuba diving courses where you learn vital skills to help protect the marine environment, such as coral restoration projects and removing toxic plastic from the sea – whilst diving!
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