Chairman's review 2016–17

image of Russell Reichelt

It has been a challenging year for the Great Barrier Reef and for tropical coral reefs around the world. Many have been affected by human-induced global warming causing mass coral bleaching and significant losses of live coral cover.

Corals are particularly sensitive to above-average temperatures in the region where they live and have become adapted. Marine heatwaves in the past two summers have killed large areas of coral to an extent not seen in the past 400 years — the longest time series of coral growth known for the Great Barrier Reef.

The 2016–17 reporting period has been a defining time for the Reef’s health and management. The cumulative impact of multiple disturbances affected most of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and redefined our operating environment. It has highlighted the urgent need to look at what measures — in addition to the suite of actions already underway — can be undertaken to further build the Reef’s resilience in the face of pressures coming largely from outside the Marine Park. The conclusion of our Great Barrier Reef Summit in May 2017 was that there is hope for the Reef if we act strongly now on all the pressures confronting the Reef.

In the full review the Chairman comments on the following topics:
  • Environmental remediation after ship grounding
  • Crown-of-thorns starfish control
  • Protecting heritage and habitats
  • Whitsundays Plan of Management
  • Field management
  • Permission system
  • Science for management
  • Working together
  • Financial performance

The Authority will continue improving our existing Reef protection measures and begin implementing both policy reforms and active intervention to protect and where possible hasten repair of damaged parts of the ecosystem.

We will contribute to the planned review of the Reef 2050 Plan and improve wherever possible the measures being taken to build the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef in the face of risks posed by global warming and other climate change related pressures.

Thank you

In presenting this annual report, I acknowledge and thank all our staff, executive management team and the Authority Board for their efforts over the last year. We are fortunate to have highly committed staff with strong and diverse skills who apply their knowledge and experience to our work in protecting this great natural icon.

I also extend that same thanks to our management partners, Traditional Owners, scientists, researchers, Reef industries and communities who work with us towards a common goal.

Thank you for your continued support of the Reef and your support of the Marine Park Authority. The Reef belongs to us all and our efforts to protect it are more important now than ever before.

Russell Reichelt