'Great opportunity': Gladstone at forefront of reef tourism
TOURISM is key to the future of the Great Barrier Reef, and Gladstone is at the forefront of driving that work.
Five experts including researchers and scientists sat down for a Q&A session at Heron Island on Wednesday to tackle misconceptions surrounding the state of the reef and provide solutions for changing minds on climate change locally and internationally.
Chaired by media personality Sophie Formica, the panel included chief scientist GBRMPA Dr David Wachenfeld, director of marine ecology research centre SCU Prof. Peter Harrison, Chair of tropical tourism North QLD Wendy Morris, Custodian of Lady Elliot Island Peter Gash and CEO of Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, Andy Ridley.
The panel said misconceptions overseas that the reef is dying are false, with tourism agencies playing a key role in getting residents and tourists to experience and understand the area.
Wendy Morris said Gladstone was in a unique position along with other towns alongside the reef in changing perceptions.
"I think Gladstone's got a great opportunity to really change the world,” she said.
"You've got an incredible reliance on resources, but you've got this amazing opportunity with what you've got sitting right off shore from Gladstone.
"This is the canary in the coal mine, this is the place where we can truly change the way people think about the planet.
"We have global changes in climate change and loss of biodiversity, but out here when you truly experience the reef you think about how you actually are changing the world in your everyday actions.”
Australia is already leading the way in reef management through local efforts including work through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's zoning plan, the control of crown of thorn starfish and working with farmers and landowners in catchment areas to reduce pollution into the reef.
But more work can be done on a global scale with calls for tourists to come and experience reef to change everyday habits which reduce the effect of climate change.
The panellists said encouraging tourists to come and fall in love with the reef is the best way to educate them about human impacts on the planet as a whole.
Dr David Wachenfeld said Australia should be proud, however there was still work to be done.
"There are still local problems, we are galvanising efforts to deal with those strongly and I actually think locally we should be proud of what we've achieved,” he said.
"We have an amazing system we've worked for many decades to protect and that work is ongoing and we should be proud of that.
"We need the strongest possible global action on climate change and we need that now, and while we are working our guts out locally to achieve that... if we don't get stronger global action we're not going to meet the Paris agreement targets and we will lose our coral reefs in a few decades time, so this is the call for action.”