1 Mar 2016


Reports that Lizard Island in far north Queensland is experiencing the worst coral bleaching since 2002 is a major concern for the Great Barrier Reef.

WWF-Australia today released new video and photographs* of the bleaching showing a wide variety of corals being impacted.

WWF Great Barrier Reef campaigner Louise Matthiesson said Lizard Island is being hit just as forecasts for the risk of coral bleaching on the Reef in March have increased sharply.

“Coral bleaching is directly related to climate change,” Ms Matthiesson said

“Global warming – fuelled by burning fossil fuels - is increasing the water temperature and bleaching coral reefs."

“Right now, the Great Barrier Reef is on a knife-edge."

“The weather over the next few weeks will be critical. If we are lucky, storms and cloud cover could ease the short-term pressure on the coral, but if it stays hot the bleaching could worsen” she said.

“There are reports of low-level coral bleaching from several places along the Reef, which is alarming, but thankfully this is not yet a mass bleaching event.”

Ms Matthiesson said scientists predict coral bleaching will increase in frequency and intensity due to climate change, but Australia can take action to help coral survive.

“Pollution that washes off farms increases the risk that bleached reefs become overgrown by algae and never recover. Cutting farm pollution is an important way to build the resilience of our Reef to the type of bleaching we are now seeing."

“We also need to speed up the shift to clean, renewable energy."

“Every year the Australian Government delays tough action on climate change and farm pollution is another year we’re playing Russian roulette with the Reef’s future,” she said.

WWF-Australia Media Contact: Mark Symons, Senior Media Officer, 0400 985 571, msymons@wwf.org.au

* Hi-res video files and images available on request.