Climate change and communities and industries

Climate change is likely to affect the way people interact with the Great Barrier Reef region and the social and economic benefits they derive from it.

Climate change poses one of the greatest risks to the future economic value of Reef-dependent industries such as tourism, fishing and recreation. Below are some examples.

Tourism and fishing industries

The health of the Reef and the sustainability of its $5+ billion tourism industry are inextricably linked.

The tourism industry is concerned about how climate change will affect its businesses and livelihoods. This includes the impact of reef site degradation, poor recovery of bleached sites as a result of other stresses, and a loss of marketing appeal as a high-quality reef destination.

It is likely fishing activities will also be highly sensitive to climate change because of projected changes in fish abundance, survivorship size and distribution, disruptions to shallow-water nurseries and loss of coral reef habitats, as well as changes in cyclone and storm activity.

Physical changes in the regional environment will affect fisheries differently. For example, south-east fisheries are most likely to be affected by changes in water temperature, and northern fisheries by changes in rainfall.

The vulnerability of commercial fishers and tourism operators to climate change will depend on their exposure and sensitivity to the associated impacts, as well as the ability of the individuals or operators to anticipate and adapt to change.

Extreme weather may provide a window into future potential climate change impacts on coastal communities, especially the flow-on effects of major disturbances to the Reef ecosystem.