Tackling climate change on the Great Barrier Reef

Published: 06/12/2012

Reef HQ Aquarium has slashed energy use by 50 per cent and is living proof businesses can adapt their practices to reduce carbon emissions and help protect the Great Barrier Reef.

The national education centre for the Great Barrier Reef is at the cutting edge of environmental sustainability and a fitting backdrop for today’s launch of the Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan (2012-2017).

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chairman Dr Russell Reichelt said the agency’s five-year action plan for the Great Barrier Reef set targets to improve the reef’s health, making it better equipped to cope with stress and climate change impacts.

“The Great Barrier Reef faces a number of challenges and now, more than ever, it’s crucial we build its health because a healthy ecosystem is better able to cope with stress,” he said.

“We all have a role to play in protecting the Great Barrier Reef. And it just goes to show, as we’ve seen with environmental work at our very own Reef HQ Aquarium, that smart business decisions can be good for the environment too.

“Tackling climate change at a global level and building the Reef’s health by reducing local stressors is critical to its long-term future.

“Our action plan outlines what we as marine managers will do on the ground to protect the species and habitats that are most at-risk from climate change in the Great Barrier Reef.

“There’s a strong focus on helping reef industries and communities use the Reef wisely and encouraging them to take action that reduces the rate and extent of climate change.”

Under the action plan, protecting species and habitats in the inshore reef will be a focus as this area faces concentrated human impacts.

At a local level actions will be taken to protect reefs showing signs of stress, similar to how using no-anchoring areas in the Keppels protected coral from anchor damage.

Reef health monitoring will also be expanded, with 1000 of the Great Barrier Reef’s 2900 reefs to be monitored for signs of stress, diseases and predators like crown-of-thorns starfish.

“Although the Reef is well-studied, the risks to the Reef are changing along with the climate. We can’t assume what we’ve learnt so far applies to how the Reef will work in the future,” Dr Reichelt said.

“We need to understand how the Reef is changing and how we need to adapt management to protect it.”

Tourism operator Tony Baker and Reef Guardian Fisher Lyle Squire are among those reef businesses that have modified their practices to take care of the environment around them.

“We care about the health of the Great Barrier Reef and have adopted environmentally-friendly business practices,” Mr Baker said.

“We have Advanced Eco Tourism Accreditation and are recognised as leaders in environmental practices. We are reducing our carbon footprint through adopting sustainable practices like upgrading our engines.

“This has been good for our business and is helping keep the Reef healthy, so we can continue showcasing this natural wonder to our visitors.

"Our goal is for all visitors to leave as ambassadors for reef protection and preservation."

This five-year action plan follows the Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Action Plan 2007–2012, the first reef-focused climate action plan of its kind.

It saw a number of major initiatives get underway, including saving turtles at the world’s largest breeding ground at Raine Island, and the second action plan will expand on this work. 

This work was initiated under the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) National Climate Change Adaptation Framework.


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