10 Mar 2017


WWF-Australia today released dramatic new video showing the Great Barrier Reef suffering mass coral bleaching for an unprecedented second year in a row.

It comes as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority confirmed that our greatest natural icon is experiencing back-to-back mass bleaching for the first time.

The Great Barrier Reef has now been hit by four mass bleaching events: 1998, 2002, 2016, and 2017.

Last year’s event was the worst on record killing an estimated 22% of all coral with damage most severe in the remote far north.

This time well-known tourism locations from Port Douglas down to Townsville are being impacted. The situation is still evolving but coral mortality could potentially be even higher than last year.-

“Climate change has knocked the Reef to its knees and now it is kicking it in the guts,” said WWF-Australia Head of Oceans Richard Leck.

“I’m shocked and saddened by what is unfolding. I did not anticipate back-to-back bleaching this decade."

“Scientists warned that without sufficient emissions reductions we could expect annual mass bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef by 2050."

“Consecutive bleaching events have arrived 30 years early,” he said.

Mr Leck said the unprecedented bleaching must serve to drive more urgent efforts to tackle climate change.

“We must address the climate crisis– fuelled by the burning of fossil fuels - that is driving coral bleaching,” he said.

“Australia should speed up the transition to clean energy – like solar and wind - by setting a target of 100% renewable electricity by 2035,” he said.

The video and still pictures released by WWF were shot by Emmy award winning cinematographer Richard Fitzpatrick from Biopixel.

They were filmed on Monday 6 March and feature Vlasoff Cay off Cairns where Mr Fitzpatrick filmed many sequences for David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef series.

“Vlasoff Cay used to have the best coral diversity in the area. Now with the water sitting at 32 degrees all the way to the bottom, the corals are dying. Many are already dead and covered in algae,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.

“The Reef is facing an imminent danger of mortality at a level that far exceeds last year over a greater geographical distance."

“Our fossil-fuelled politicians are polluters of time which we don’t have when it comes to the Reef,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.


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