25 Mar 2022


Another mass coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef has been declared today, just as United Nations officials are assessing the health of the world heritage site.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) issued an update this afternoon after aerial surveys confirmed the Reef is experiencing mass bleaching for the fourth time since 2016. The update revealed coral bleaching has been observed at multiple reefs in all four management areas (the Far Northern, Cairns–Cooktown, Townsville–Whitsunday and Mackay–Capricorn).

Widespread heat damage to coral means Australia’s national treasure has now suffered mass bleaching events in 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017, 2020 and 2022.

The declaration comes just as a UN monitoring mission has arrived in Queensland to assess whether the Reef should be added to the list of World Heritage In Danger.

“The timing is quite extraordinary. The world heritage experts should be given the opportunity to see firsthand what climate change is doing to the Great Barrier Reef,” said Richard Leck, Head of Oceans for WWF-Australia.

“The images of colourless coral are also a heartbreaking reminder that Australia could be doing so much more on climate mitigation to protect the Reef.”

WWF-Australia released an independent expert analysis from leading climate scientists last week that revealed the extent to which Australia’s current approach to reducing emissions is deficient.

Experts at Climate Resource found that Australia’s domestic emissions will add up to 9.6 billion tonnes. To have a chance of staying below 1.5°C, Australia’s domestic emissions should total only 4 billion tonnes.

“We’re on track to blow our emissions budget by double. We can and must do better to give the Reef a fighting chance,” said Mr Leck.

“There is a lot that is within our power to change. We have superpowers, in fact."

“With our endless sunshine, abundant space, powerful winds, and world-class expertise, we can become a renewable superpower and export clean energy to the world."

“This would dramatically reduce our emissions and give the Reef the best chance of survival."

“It’s our Reef; it’s our responsibility,” he said.

News of the mass coral bleaching also comes on the eve of this year’s Earth Hour, which is raising awareness of the impacts of climate change on vital ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef.

Australians will join hundreds of millions of people around the world switching off their lights in support of stronger climate action at 8:30 pm local time on Saturday, 26 March.