Great Barrier Reef Health Information
Update #2 - 11 April 2016:
2 weeks ago we spoke to our Marine Biology experts for some up to date information about what coral bleaching is and to what extent it was affecting our region.
Today we catch up with the Quicksilver Group's Environmental & Compliance Manager, Dougie Baird, to get an update on current conditions and have a chat with some guests to find out about their reef experiences.
Update #1 - 31 March 2016:
The Great Barrier Reef is a massive, dynamic living natural wonder spanning 344,400 sq km. In light of recent media coverage about coral bleaching we believe it important to state some of the facts. So we asked two of the Quicksilver Group's senior environment and marine biologists to give us a better understanding of what coral bleaching is and what the impacts are.
Commonly asked questions about Coral Bleaching:
1. What is Coral Bleaching?
Coral bleaching is caused when coral under stress voluntarily expel the microscopic marine algae, called 'Zooxanthellae', from their cells. Through photosynthesis these algae give corals most of the energy they need to grow, reproduce and provide the colour to the coral. As a coral gets more stressed more and more Zooxanthellae are ejected from the transparent tissue of the coral, and more of the corals white skeleton is revealed. The coral is still alive, but is in a distressed state.
2. What causes Coral Bleaching?
Bleaching can be caused by a number of things: prolonged elevated ocean temperatures, sudden temperature drops (as seen in the southern part of the reef in winter occasionally), extreme amounts of freshwater (usually caused by tropical storms) and sedimentation caused by run off. What some areas of the reef are currently experiencing is above average ocean temperatures caused by a severe El Nino event, similar to what was experienced in 1998.
3. Where is the Coral Bleaching?
The Great Barrier Reef consists of 4 general sections: Far Northern Section, Cairns Section, Central Section and the Mackay-Capricorn Section. The area under the most stress from the current bleaching event that is being widely report in the news media, is the Far Northern Section that runs from Lizard Island up to the tip of Cape York. Lizard Island is approx. 200kms north of Port Douglas and 250kms north of Cairns.
The 'Cairns Section' which runs from Cooktown, past Port Douglas and down past Cairns, is not experiencing the extreme bleaching event seen in the Far Northern section.