Showing posts with label Great Barrier Reef. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Great Barrier Reef. Show all posts

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Great Barrier Reef: $487.63 million to do little more than sit by the bedside of a dying reef system?


The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 August 2018:

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation has had some good fortune that few environmental NGOs could count on. The $444 million it was granted by the government earlier this year dwarfs its previous budgets by a large multiple. Having worked in two small environmental charities of a similar operating budget and staffing to the pre-windfall foundation, I can confirm getting so much money without even applying for it is far beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

Still, the biggest questions about the GBRF windfall don’t relate to its good luck in an opaque government decision, or even its connections to the fossil fuel industry. 

These are entirely valid concerns, but they risk eclipsing the bigger significance of the government’s move.

What we also need to ask is: what does the foundation do? What are its outputs, its activities? And why would the federal government be so keen to direct such a huge chunk of funding to those activities?

At best, the government’s massive funding dump is a long-shot attempt to save a few bits of the reef from inevitable degradation. At worst, it’s a distraction from that fate – and a diversion from addressing its causes.

The foundation has standard governance structures, and the support of credible, dedicated scientists. But what it does it essentially triage.

It’s now clear the government understands that even in the best climate scenario, the Great Barrier Reef will not survive in its recent form. The Department of Environment and Energy acknowledged this just last month. Even the Queensland tourism industry has publicly come to terms with the certainty that the reef will continue to suffer from climate change.

Scientists have been telling us since the 1980s that even modest climate change is a threat to coral reefs. Corals are so sensitive to changes in temperature that even in the best case warming scenario – achieving the 1.5 C stretch goal of the Paris Agreement - it’s now estimated that only 10 per cent of the world’s reefs will survive in their current form. At 2C, none are expected to escape “severe degradation and annihilation”.

The foundation delivers projects focused on “resilience, restoration and innovation”. That means doing its best to protect and restore the reef. It notes climate change is the biggest threat, but it does not address greenhouse gas emissions, at either a local or systemic level.

Its activities are similar to those we’ve seen from several other reef-focused initiatives and programs in recent years: breeding resilient corals, establishing small refuges, developing monitoring tools, and supporting species such as turtles and dugongs.

Projects like these have been allocated hundreds of millions of dollars of federal government funding through various programs over the years, including water quality and run-off management along with contentious projects to removing Crown of Thorns starfish, and more radical measures such as underwater fans to drive cooler water from the depths. The foundation, for its part, reported recently on testing of a polymer “sun shield”, noting that the technology would only scale to smaller, “high value or high risk” parts of the reef.

A good case can be made that these experiments are pragmatic. Even if emissions stop tomorrow, locked-in warming will continue to ravage the reef for the next few decades.

The foundation counts respected research institutions among its partners, and scientists such as Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the University of Queensland are on its scientific advisory board. For Hoegh-Guldberg, who sounded the alarm on the threat of climate for coral reefs in 1999, the foundation provides an important opportunity to educate corporations on the dire state of the Great Barrier Reef and climate in general. Again, its scientific review processes have not been questioned.

However, it’s important to remember that there's no guarantee these “resilience” activities will succeed against a backdrop of waters reaching temperatures deadly to coral. Whether portions of a complex marine ecosystem can be preserved, and in what form, is still very much unknown. Professor Terry Hughes, a contender for world leading coral reef expert, is dubious; in a Nature paper he found that water quality and fishing pressure – two key ways of improving resilience - made little difference in the face of devastating warm surges.

BACKGROUND


Sunday, 19 August 2018

The first unintended consequence of Malcolm Turnbull's perverse $487M grant to the small Great Barrier Reef Foundation surfaces


The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 August 2018:

The Turnbull government's claim its $444 million grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation would spur private donations has been disputed by a leading coral scientist who says funding for his own venture has dried up in the wake of the cash splash.

Charlie Veron, a marine biologist dubbed "the godfather of coral" for discovering more than one-fifth the world's coral species, said US donors to his Corals of the World website dropped plans to donate $60,000 once they saw "the Australian government was going to pour a fortune" into reef projects.

"My source of funding has completely stopped," Dr Veron said.

Dr Veron said his website, a decade in the making, would be crucial for any future recovery work on the reef, such as the $100 million reef restoration and adaptation program that will now be under the foundation's stewardship.

Dr Veron said he met last week the foundation head, Anna Marsden, who said she "didn't have any money that could go" to his project despite it needing $200,000, or one-quarter of 1 per cent of the government's largesse, to survive.

"The whole thing is just a mystery to me," he said. "It's a drop in the bucket if ever there was one."....

A foundation spokeswoman said Dr Veron had been one of "a number of organisations [that] have expressed an interest" in seeking funds.

"At a recent meeting, we advised Dr Veron that a process was being established to consider proposals under the Reef Trust Partnership," she said. "We will consider proposals for funding once the governance and advisory framework is established and a process for applications has been approved."

Fairfax Media approached Josh Frydenberg, the environment and energy minister, for comment.

"Perverse outcomes are going to be part of a process that wasn't thought through," Tony Burke, Labor's environment spokesman, said. "The due diligence [into the Foundation before the grant was made] was a joke."

Mr Burke said it was possible that less private funding would available for reef projects than before as a result of "decision making with almost no formal process".

The foundation spokeswoman said that the non-profit will continue to make the raising of private funds "a focus and responsibility, so we can amplify the impact of the government’s investment".....

Dr Veron said donors to his site had poured in $2.5 million to build the most complete record of corals that would be critical for efforts to restore reefs in the future. For instance, it has identified and made available information of eight coral species that appear to be able to resist bleaching.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Great Barrier Reef Foundation: waiting for the inevitable crash


Mainstream media reports that Australian Prime Minister & Liberal MP for Wentworth Malcolm Turnbull (former director Goldman Sachs), Minister for Environment and Energy & Liberal MP for Kooyong Josh Frydenberg (former director Deutsche Bank Australia) and Chair of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation & Member of the Business Council of Australia John Schubert (former chair Commonwealth Bank) met on 9 April 2018 to discuss the allocation of a grant valued at in excess of AU$487.6 million to the foundation.

It was also reported that no officials from the Department of the Environment and Energy were present at that meeting when the grant offer was made and apparently accepted.

Less than ten weeks later the grant was formally approved without meeting all relevant provisions in the Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines 2017.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation with a staff of only six full-time employees now has no more than 6 financial years to spend this large sum, which represents est. 69.66 per cent of funds held in the federal government operated Reef Trust since 2014 and 97.52 per cent of additional funds received by the trust on 29 April 2018.

Leaving the Reef Trust with an unspecified amount to fulfil other commitments over the next six years.

Due to obvious time constraints, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s board and corporate 'advisers' need to have a detailed financial and project action plan for 2018-19 immediately - if not sooner.

I suspect that I am not alone in waiting for waste of resources, duplication of effort, poorly targeted projects, lack of verifiable outcomes and other instances of  mismanagement to emerge over time, given the slapdash way this grant was put together.

Australian Government, GrantConnect:


GA ID: GA9190
Agency: Department of the Environment and Energy
Approval Date: 20-Jun-2018
Publish Date: 12-Jul-2018
Category: Natural Resources - Conservation and Protection
Grant Term: 27-Jun-2018 to 30-Jun-2024
Value (AUD): $487,633,300.00 (GST inclusive where applicable)

Ad hoc/One-off: Yes
Aggregate Grant Award: No

PBS Program Name: DoTE 17/18 Program 1.1: Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and the Environment
Grant Program: Reef Trust
Grant Activity: Reef Trust grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation
Purpose: The project will deliver activities which are consistent with the purposes of the Reef Trust Special Account Determination to achieve the Reef Trust Objectives and assist to protect the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Internal Reference ID: 100000001841

Confidentiality - Contract: Yes
Confidentiality Reason(s) - Contract: Other:  Aspects of the Co-Financing Plan and the Communication and Stakeholder Engagement Plan 
Confidentiality - Outputs: No

Grant Recipient Details
Recipient Name: Great Barrier Reef Foundation
Recipient ABN: 82 090 616 443

Grant Recipient Location
Suburb: Brisbane
Town/City: Brisbane
Postcode: 4000
State/Territory: QLD
Country: AUSTRALIA

Grant Delivery Location
State/Territory: QLD
Country: AUSTRALIA



Third Sector, 7 June 2018:

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) has confirmed one of its board directors will step down as he faces criminal charges for cartel conduct.

Stephen Roberts, an investment banker and GBRF board director, has been charged by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for allegedly playing a part of a criminal cartel during a $2.5 billion deal.

ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, said: “These serious charges are the result of an ACCC investigation that has been running for more than two years.”

The charges, which included other banking chief executives and senior staff, were laid by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and will be determined in court.

Criminal charges relating to an alleged cartel by Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and the ANZ have been formally laid in relation to alleged cartel arrangements relating to trading in ANZ shares following a $2.5 billion institutional share placement in August 2015.


Tuesday, 31 July 2018

A trio of Great Barrier Reef Foundation directors decline to appear before a senate committee inquiry


On 19 June 2018, the Senate referred the 2018-19 Budget measure Great Barrier Reef 2050 Partnership Program to the Environment and Communications References Committee for inquiry and report on 15 August 2018.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation made a written submission on 2 July 2018.

Yesterday it sent one of it newest directors (who apparently joined the board in the second half of 2017) and its managing director to give evidence before the inquiry.

However, three directors are seeking to avoid attending this inquiry  - John M Schubert (Chair), Grant King and Paul Greenfield.

This unwillingness is likely to be less about scheduling problems and more about close associations with petroleum, gas, mining* and finance industries, the foundation's membership list as well as the identity of donors who gave over $1.4 million to the foundation in 2017.


Three directors of a Great Barrier Reef charity entrusted with almost half a billion dollars in public money have refused to give evidence to a Senate inquiry scrutinising the controversial deal, raising the prospect they will be forced to appear.

Confidential Senate committee documents seen by Fairfax Media show that despite being offered five dates at which to attend the inquiry, the directors of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation say they are unavailable for questioning, variously citing overseas travel commitments, medical appointments, board meetings and other unspecified engagements.

The inquiry was launched following the Turnbull government’s decision to grant the small, business-focused charity $443 million to help rescue the reef.  The foundation has previously said it would “fully co-operate” with the probe.

The contentious Great Barrier Reef Foundation grant is to be spent on projects such as water quality improvements.

The Senate committee had specifically requested their attendance. The trio comprises the organisation’s chair John Schubert and board members Grant King and Paul Greenfield. Mr King is president of the Business Council of Australia and Dr Greenfield chairs the foundation’s scientific committee.

The foundation has advised that managing director Anna Marsden and another director, John Gunn, will give evidence.

The grant was awarded without a tender process and the government’s own expert agencies were not invited to apply.

The foundation plans to use the grant to leverage additional funds from the private sector.….

Fairfax Media understands the committee will ask the directors to find suitable dates to give evidence and advise them that the committee has the power to summon witnesses. According to the Parliament website, Senate committees rarely need to exercise such powers as witnesses are “normally very willing to place their views and the information they possess before the Senate to assist in an understanding of issues”…..

details of the deal show the foundation will receive almost $45 million to cover administration costs incurred by disbursing the funds. Fairfax Media previously reported the foundation would receive an upfront payment of $22.5 million plus interest. The recently published grant agreement shows the interest will be capped at $22 million, and any additional interest will be spent on reef projects.

The agreement also shows many aspects of the deal will remain confidential, including the strategy used by the foundation to attract private sector funds.

Greens oceans spokesman Peter Whish-Wilson criticised the secrecy and questioned the influence businesses would exert over how the grant was spent.
“How much of it is going to be used to promote the companies and essentially greenwash some of these businesses that are key polluters?” he said.

Businesses involved in the foundation include heavy polluters such as AGL, Peabody Energy, Shell, Rio Tinto and Qantas.

In a statement, the department said it accepted that the foundation “does not wish information about who it might approach or the strategies it might employ in its fundraising to be made public”.

The administration costs were “ reasonable given the scale of the grant” and any entity, including a government agency, would need adequate funds for such purposes, it said.

The department said the attendance at Senate hearings "is a matter for the foundation".

* The Great Barrier Reef Foundation classes Rio Tinto's RTFM Wakmatha (a Post Panamax bulk carrier on the Weipa to Gladstone run) as the foundation's research vessel in its so-called mission to save the reef.

UPDATE

As of 7.35pm 31 July 2018 the transcript of yesterday's public hearing has not been published.

However, mainstream media is reporting that Ms. Marsden gave evidence that in April 2018 Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull and Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg met privately with the Chair of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, John Schubert.

At this meeting an unsolicited and unscrutinised offer of over $45 million as a lump sum grant was made to Schubert as chair of the foundation.

This private meeting goes a long way towards explaining Schubert's reluctance to be questioned during this Senate inquiry.

Three former bankers meeting to carve out a large chunk of taxpayer dollars, probably felt comfortable enough to speak freely on a number of subjects.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Get Up!: Adani is paying for government staff to 'independently' assess Adani's mine.


Rio Tinto's RTM Wakmatha bulk carrier

Get Up!
is currently sending out an interesting email pointing out the close relationship between the Adani Group and government.


Given past behaviour of the Adani Group it is possible that it might also be considering looking to a small business focused, suspected 'greenwashing' front called the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, for assistance in the future.

Given the Turnbull Government's announcement of a $444 million grant gifted to the coal, ore, gas and petroleum export industries as well as bulk carrier fleets operating on the Australian east coast, by way of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

A foundation which classes Rio Tinto's RTFM Wakmatha (a Post Panamax bulk carrier on the Weipa to Gladstone run) as the foundation's research vessel in its so-called mission to save the reef.
https://www.marinetraffic.com
On Monday night 28 May 2018 the 'research' vessel was on the return trip north (destination Gove NT) sailing between the coast and Lizard Island. 

Two oil tankers were also travelling north behind it. 


Get Up! email, 28 May 2018:

Adani is paying for government staff to 'independently' assess Adani's mine.

The corporation has struck a mind-boggling deal that will see Adani pay up to $1.5 million in salaries, housing and vehicle costs for council employees who will directly assess parts of their coal project.1

Adani now has its tendrils deep in every level of our democracy. From local councils, to state governments, right through to our Federal politicians. Adani has infiltrated our democracy in a way that makes objective decision making virtually impossible.

Our Reef is on the brink, and so is our planet. If we're to stop this monstrous coal mine, we have to fight back against the huge influence dirty polluters have over our democracy.

Can you sign our open letter to Australian politicians demanding they get big polluters out of government?

This is only the latest sordid chapter in this country's big book of polluting politics.

From the beginning, there has been a revolving door of operators moving freely between Adani and political offices. Last Queensland election, an Adani lobbyist 'volunteered' to run Labor's election campaign.2

Resources Minister Matt Canavan stacked the board deciding whether or not to give $1 billion to Adani with his pro-coal friends.3 And when that didn't work, Trade Minister Steve Ciobo went out and changed the rules of government funding body EFIC (the Export Finance Insurance Corporation) to allow hundreds of millions in public money to fund projects exactly like Adani's coal mine.4

The fossil fuel industry and their vested interests are rotting our democracy from tip to root. If we are to get the real, urgent change we need, we need to clean them out on every level.

Sign our open letter demanding we get big polluters out of our politics.

It's not just Adani, either.
The Turnbull Government has just announced a plan to 'save the Reef'. Except instead of doing anything about climate change, this plan involves granting $444 million to an obscure group with links to climate-deniers. Their plan? Let "corporate interest help decide the science strategy and funding priorities."5


Yep. Nearly half a billion dollars for climate-deniers to work with big business to solve the problem. What could go wrong?

At the same time, the Government's Energy Security Board put out a call for energy companies to help implement Turnbull's new energy plan. Big polluters could be writing the rules they'll have to follow. Again, what could possibly go wrong?6

It's clear that our politicians, and especially this Turnbull Government, have shown us they are both incapable and unwilling to act on climate while they are dominated by climate deniers, the fossil fuel lobby and big coal donors.

Help get fossil fuels out of our democracy. Sign our open letter now.

It's time for a clean out.

Sam R and Jairaj, for the GetUp team.

References
[1] Adani to pay for Isaac council staff working on Carmichael mine activities, ABC Online, 28 May 2018
[2] Adani lobbyist Cameron ­Milner in Palaszczuk campaign, The Australian, 30 August 2017
[3] Conflicts of interest concerns over $900m Adani loan spark Senate estimates questions, ABC Online, 2 June 2017
[4] Coalition to allow government-backed loans to coalmines as banks hesitant, The Guardian, 11 September 2017
[5] Corporate figures to help decide Great Barrier Reef priorities under $444m grant, Sydney Morning Herald, 21 May 2018
[6] Energy Security Board asks companies for staff to deliver National Energy Guarantee, Australian Financial Review, 21 May 2018


GetUp is an independent, not-for-profit community campaigning group. We use new technology to empower Australians to have their say on important national issues. We receive no political party or government funding, and every campaign we run is entirely supported by voluntary donations. If you'd like to contribute to help fund GetUp's work, please donate now! This email was sent to judith.melville@gmail.com. To unsubscribe this email address from GetUp, please click here.
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Authorised by Paul Oosting, Level 14, 338 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Reef 2050 plan to restore outstanding universal values of the Great Barrier Reef decade by decade questioned in the wake of back to-back bleaching events


On 8 December 2017 the Australian Academy of Science made a submission to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority consultation on the Coastal Ecosystems Position Statement.

This submission made the following points:

* The federal government Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability Plan to restore the “Outstanding Universal Values” of the Great Barrier Reef decade by decade is no longer tenable following back to-back bleaching events.

* Climate change is a clear and present challenge to the ongoing health of the Great Barrier Reef.

* Almost all “historic” and “legacy” stressors to the Great Barrier Reef remain today, and most of them continue to escalate — for example, land clearing, maintenance dredging, ship anchoring, and coastal recreational fishing pressure.

* There is a need to avoid further environmental damage through better management of stressors.

* Monitoring of drivers or stressors, including so called “legacy” drivers, should be included as a subject of research and management.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

400,000 hectares stripped of vegetation in Queensland in 2015-16


The world’s largest living structure, the Great Barrier Reef, is both a nursery and feeding ground for colourful tropical marine species and edible fish species – it is part of Australia’s national food bowl.

Yet there still appears to be people who fail to understand the importance of vegetated land catchments to sustaining the health of this 2,300 kilometres long reef system.

The Guardian, 24 November 2017:

Queensland farmers are suspected of having defied rare federal government intervention and cleared a large swath of land without commonwealth approval, according to conservationists.

The native vegetation was in a reef catchment, meaning the clearing could worsen pollution on the Great Barrier Reef. Government-commissioned studies show it provided habitat to several threatened species.

Queensland is experiencing a boom in tree clearing – rates jumped 33% in 2016, in a region that is already considered the only “global deforestation hotspot” in the developed world. About 400,000 hectares were cleared in 2015-16, meaning Queensland now has two-thirds the annual rate of deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon.

In 2015 the landowners at Wombinoo, about 70km south-west of Cairns, gained approval under lenient Queensland state laws to clear more than 3,000 hectares of mostly untouched remnant native vegetation.

Between 2015 and 2016, the farmers began undertaking that clearing, with 560 hectares of trees felled and burned before environment groups noticed and alerted the federal government.

The government took the very rare step of forcibly referring the planned clearing for assessment under the federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Under that law, activities that potentially affect “matters of national environmental significance” must be assessed by the federal government.

An assessment found the clearing would need federal approval. It also found the previous clearing required investigation because it might have destroyed the habitat of a number of threatened species, including the greater glider and koalas.

No approval has been granted for further clearing, and the investigation of the previous clearing is apparently still incomplete, but footage has emerged purportedly showing a further 60 hectares was cleared between March and April this year. The clearing allegedly includes one large plot, as well as a strip about 60 metres wide, according to the Wilderness Society, which gathered the evidence. But land owners who spoke to the Guardian said all relevant approvals had been secured before any clearing took place.

The Wilderness Society alleges that half of that new clearing is in a creek bed that drains on to the Great Barrier Reef, raising concerns about the impacts on water quality there. According to the Wilderness Society, some of the new clearing appears to have occurred outside the area that received approval from the state government.

Lawyers at the Environmental Defenders Office of New South Wales have written to both the federal and state governments on behalf of the Wilderness Society, informing them of the clearing and asking what action would be taken.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Castle Hill, Townsville carries the message "STOP ADANI"


A major heritage-listed landmark shows that not everyone in Townsville, Queensland, appears to be happy with becoming a mining FIFO dumping ground hub for the financially dubious multinational Adani Group ……

Castle Hill aka Cutheringa Mountain est elevation 264 metres
Image: Townsville Bulletin, 16 October 2016


Thursday, 29 June 2017

UNESCO REPORT - "Assessment: World Heritage coral reefs likely to disappear by 2100 unless CO2 emissions drastically reduce"


Excerpts from United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Impacts of Climate Change on World Heritage Coral Reefs: A First Global Scientific Assessment, 23 June 2017:


Seventy two percent of World Heritage reef properties (21 of 29) have been exposed to severe and/or repeated heat stress during the past three years. Within the three years of the current global bleaching event (mid 2014-mid 2017), 18 World Heritage reefs (62%) were in the highest impact category (dark red) at either one or both stress levels (Table 1c,d). A further three properties were exposed to recurrent bleaching stress (red) or a single severe stress event (orange). This illustrates the dramatic impact on coral reefs during this period, which has seen three consecutive years of record global temperature (2014, 2015 and 2016), and reflects an increase in bleaching frequency from that seen in the prior decades. Only four properties (14%) escaped bleaching-level heat stress during this three-year bleaching event: Brazilian Atlantic Islands (Brazil), iSimangaliso Wetland Park (South Africa), Sanganeb Marine National Park and Dungonab Bay – Mukkawar Island Marine National Park (Sudan) and Socotra Archipelago (Yemen)…..

Coral mortality during the third global bleaching event has been among the worst ever observed, including at World Heritage reefs; e.g., Great Barrier Reef (Australia), Papahānaumokuākea (USA) and Aldabra Atoll (Seychelles)…..

Papahānaumokuākea (USA) and the Great Barrier Reef (Australia), among the most spatially vast of all World Heritage properties…..

Coral communities typically take at least 15 to 25 years to recover from mass mortality events such as destructive cyclones and mass bleaching events. If the frequency of mass mortality events increases to a point where the return time of mortality events is less than the time it takes to recover, the abundance of corals on reefs will decline. Consequently, the frequency of stress events that reached or exceeded the 4°C and 8°C-week DHW thresholds was calculated for each World Heritage reef-containing property (Table 1) to detect if the bleaching frequency exceeded the best-case rates of recovery.

This analysis showed that World Heritage properties containing coral reefs have been increasingly exposed to heat stress during recent years. Nearly half (13) of the 29 World Heritage Listed reef properties were exposed to levels of heat stress that cause coral bleaching, on average, more than twice per decade during the 1985- 2013 period

Download full report here.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Australia's Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on the planet and it is dying before our very eyes


“The breathtaking array of marine creatures includes 600 types of soft and hard corals, more than 100 species of jellyfish, 3000 varieties of molluscs, 500 species of worms, 1625 types of fish, 133 varieties of sharks and rays, and more than 30 species of whales and dolphins” [Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority, 2017]

The Great Barrier Reef - stretching 2,300 kilometres along Australia’s east coast - is the largest living structure on the planet and it is dying right before our very eyes.


Winter sea surface temperatures in 2016 remained above average and, by the beginning of the 2016-17 summer, the accumulated heat stress on the Reef resulted in a second wave of mass bleaching.

Staff from the Marine Park Authority took part in aerial surveys conducted by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and the results confirmed the extent and severity of the 2017 bleaching event…..

In addition to severe bleaching affecting over half the Reef since 2016, large portions of the Reef have also been subjected to other simultaneous impacts during the 2016-17 summer.

Severe tropical cyclone Debbie crossed the coast at Airlie Beach on 28 March 2017.
  
It is estimated approximately 28 per cent of the total reef area in the Marine Park was within the ‘catastrophic damage zone’ of the cyclone’s path.

Surveys conducted by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service have revealed that some sites have suffered significant damage (up to 97 percent coral loss) and are down to very low coral cover, while others received less damage and still have moderate coral cover…..

Outbreaks of coral disease and crown-of-thorns starfish have also been ongoing.

The cumulative impact of these disturbances are affecting most of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and it is likely the resilience of the majority of reefs north of Mackay has been severely diminished.

Although some disturbances are considered natural processes that have shaped coral reef communities over time, impacts such as climate change are leading to more widespread and frequent disturbances.

New Atlas, 29 May 2017:


Prior to 2017, the Great Barrier Reef had suffered through three major bleaching events in modern history – 1998, 2002 and 2016 – and underwater and aerial surveys earlier this year indicated that 2017 would offer little reprieve, with scientists confirming back-to-back bleaching events were taking place. They had maintained hope that things would cool off quickly, but further surveys have now revealed that seems unlikely, along with the true extent of the current damage. 
Scientists from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority have confirmed that 29 percent of shallow water corals died from the bleaching in 2016, an increase on the 22 percent they had predicted midway through that year. Deeper coral was also affected, but divers are unable to systematically assess mortality rates at those depths.


Science Alert, 30 May 2017:

The Great Barrier Reef can no longer be saved by existing plans to protect the ecological site, experts have warned, saying that efforts should shift to a lesser, backup plan of maintaining the reef's "ecological function" instead.

Scientists have told an Australian government committee that the current strategy to protect the reef – the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan – is unachievable in light of recent mass bleaching events, especially since the plan doesn't include steps to counter climate change.

The AU$2 billion Reef 2050 plan was launched in March 2015, with an aim of improving the "universal value" of the world's largest coral reef every decade leading up to 2050.

But in a meeting last week, scientists warned the advisory committee that oversees the plan that the goal of improving the reef environment is unrealistic after back-to-back bleaching events in 2016 and 2017, contributing to the worst coral die-off ever recorded…..

According to Panel Chairman and former Chief Scientist of Australia, Ian Chubb, the Reef 2050 Plan needs a significant overhaul to directly address the elephant in the room: warming oceans, the main contributor behind coral bleaching.

"We can't be passive bystanders in this. We're the custodians of the reef and its ecosystem for the world," he told Adam Morton at The Sydney Morning Herald.

"We don't say toss out the plan and start from scratch – action on water quality, sediment, and fertiliser remain important – but events mean it needs to be shifted."