Jun 3, 2016

Agencies say 22% of Barrier Reef coral is dead, correcting 'misinterpretation'

Great Barrier Reef, QLD
Australia
by
Michael Slezak
,
The Guardian
Coral bleaching at Loomis Reef, off Lizard Island. Photo: Essential Media
Coral bleaching at Loomis Reef, off Lizard Island. Photo: Essential Media

Almost a quarter of the coral on the Great Barrier Reef is now dead, according to two government agencies, with the previously pristine remote northern sections worst affected.

The data from in-water surveys, released on Friday afternoon, was from the two agencies that were part of the national coral bleaching taskforce.

Earlier this week their non-government partner – the Australian Research Council centre of excellence for coral reef studies – released broadly similar data.

Guardian Australia understands the three data sets were planned for release together, but the two government agencies pulled out at the last minute, unhappy with the emphasis of the associated release.

The media release distributed with the government agency data focused on dispelling perceived exaggerations of the damage, and on the ability of coral to recover, rather than on the size of the environmental disaster.

“Despite reported claims and counter claims over the last month about the ‘death’ of large swathes of the Great Barrier Reef, the true impact of this summer’s major coral bleaching event is now emerging,” it read.

...

The chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Russell Reichelt, said in the release: “We’ve opted to release results ahead of final completion of surveys because of widespread misinterpretation of how much of the Reef has died.”

Reichelt said 22% of the coral along the length of the reef appeared to be dead.