Dugong at Great Keppel Island
Dugong at Great Keppel Island Pacific pixels

Fears Reef report has people jumping to 'wrong conclusions'

A LEADING coral reef researcher has defended the Southern Great Barrier Reef saying she is concerned that out takes from the recent outlook report will have people jumping to the wrong conclusions.

Dr Alison Jones has spent more than half her life living and working in the Keppel Islands and said results published, and particularly people reading the words 'very poor' could have a negative impact on the tourism industry.

 

Dr Alison Jones relaxes at home but fears the growing propanganda war over the Great Barrier Reef is detracting from the real issues.



Photo Christine McKee / The Morning Bulletin
Dr Alison Jones relaxes at home but fears the growing propanganda war over the Great Barrier Reef is detracting from the real issues. Photo Christine McKee / The Morning Bulletin Christine McKee

"Media and visitors to our region may naturally assume that 'very poor' means the current physical condition of the entire reef and may not understand that the reef is constantly changing and can recover from natural disturbance," Dr Jones said.

"In fact, the report has good news for some parts of the reef from a combination of natural resilience and the results of local stewardship, improved water quality and management actions.

"The Keppels suffered flood damage from 2009 to 2017 with repeated cyclonic and monsoonal rain events that resulted in overall coral and fish decline, however, with the onset other drier period, the recovery of this section of the Reef from this unprecedented series of natural events has been steady, particularly when compared with the Whitsundays and other reefs to the north."

 

 

One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson (centre) listens to marine scientist Dr Alison Jones as she displays a coral off Great Keppel Island in November 2016.
One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson (centre) listens to marine scientist Dr Alison Jones as she displays a coral off Great Keppel Island in November 2016. DAN PELED

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the best evaluated, researched and monitored coral reef systems in the world and tourism operators fear that continued negative reporting from national and international media along with a misunderstanding of how to read and report on studies such as a the one recently released, continues to have detrimental impact on global perceptions of a healthy, vibrant and diverse eco-system.

They say misinterpretation of the report may damage the tourism industry, which is ultimately part of the solution to a healthy reef.

"The high standard of operators, audited programs and high level of local stewardship we continue to see across the Southern Great Barrier Reef is raising awareness about the value of keeping local reefs healthy," Dr Jones said.

"It's a valuable part of managing the Great Barrier Reef, and this should be taken into account."

 

 

epa03795612 (FILE) An undated handout image released by the Australian Institute for Marine Science (AIMS) on 02 October 2012, shows corals at North Keppel Island on the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia. Media reports on 21 July 2013 state that US Navy jets from the carrier 'USS Bonhomme' dropped bombs close to the Great Barrier Reef while being on an exercise flight during a joint military maneuver of US and Australian forces. Reportedly the Harrier jets, that can not land with bombs fixed under their wings, jettisoned the bombs after running low on fuel during an exercise flight towards a bombing range on Townshend Island. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park off the Australian coast Marine Park was declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site in 1981.  EPA/AIMS/Ray Berkelmans AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Corals at North Keppel Island on the Southern Great Barrier Reef AIMS/Ray Berkelmans

Lyndsay Appleton, founder of Keppel Dive, spends her days showcasing what she believes is one of the premier scuba diving destinations in the world.

She said the Keppel reef is one of the most underrated areas and features some of the healthiest coral she's seen in 14 years working on the Reef.

"The family of dugong currently inhabiting the Keppel Islands is a sure-fire sign that the Southern Great Barrier Reef is extremely healthy," Mrs Appleton said.

"Where there is dugong, there is a healthy seagrass, ocean and reef."

 

 

An underwater view of the coral reefs at Great Keppel Island which is is an experience Freedom Fast Cats offer.
An underwater view of the coral reefs at Great Keppel Island which is is an experience Freedom Fast Cats offer. Contributed

Capricorn Enterprise chief executive Mary Carroll continues to strongly advocate for the Southern Great Barrier Reef as a part the best managed coral reef system on the globe through the leadership of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

"The Reef is the most significant tourism drawcard to our region and the more visitors we welcome, the greater the awareness of this global icon," Ms Carroll said.

"Our stunning reefs surrounding the 17 islands of Keppel Bay are robust and beautiful, and harbour extraordinary coral assemblages that are distinct from the rest of the Great Barrier Reef."

"The Great Barrier Reef is core to Australia's identity and improving its outlook is critical.

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Underwater view of the coral reef at Great Keppel Island. Courtesy of Freedom Fast Cats.
Underwater view of the coral reef at Great Keppel Island. Courtesy of Freedom Fast Cats. Contributed

Everyone in our region needs to remain vigilant, active and optimistic in managing our section of the Reef, but also recognise that it is alive and healthy."

The third Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report, released last week, outlined the use, factors influencing the condition, management effectiveness, resilience, risks to its future and likely outlook of the reef into the future.

Since 2009, the report has been released every five years by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, providing an overview of the risks facing the vast and spectacular ecosystem that is one of the most complex natural systems on Earth.

 

Some of the most beautiful corals in the Keppels lie off Putney Beach
Photo Contributed
Some of the most beautiful corals in the Keppels lie off Putney Beach Photo Contributed Contributed

The entire Great Barrier Reef, spans 346,000 square kilometres from the tip of Cape York in the north to south of Lady Elliot Island and was valued by Deloitte Access Economics in 2017 at $56billion, with an economic contribution of A$6.4billion per year and supporting 64,000 jobs.