Environmental Awareness on the Rise Near the Reef

As one of the seven natural wonders of the World, environmental awareness surrounding the Great Barrier Reef spiked when a COSCO ship filled with coal got lodged in the reef this week. Due to threats from ships, climate change, water quality and intensive tourism, the Great Barrier Reef’s health is in serious jeopardy. As an ethical consumer, your lifestyle choices and travel choices can help save the Reef, who rivals the Great Wall of China in length at over 2,000 km. What makes the Great Barrier Reef so special? It is a Mecca of biodiversity. Reefs are actually a collection of various types of coral, in this case 400 types, with 2,900 different reefs. It has had about 500,000 years to form, with reefs thriving and dyeing in between. The current ecosystem developed around 6,000 - 8,000 years ago, growing a few millimeters annually. This intricate ecosystem attracts mating whales, giant sea turtles, rays, dolphins, birds, and tropical fish as well as plethora of other fascinating sea animals. Due to its distinct ecological value and beauty, the Great Barrier Reef was declared an UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981, adding to its universal protection and environmental awareness. So how is it possible that the Great Barrier Reef may not outlive Generation X? Three major issues continually threaten the viability of the Reef: climate change, water quality, and tourism. Climate change, a more imminent threat to the Reef, threatens to lower water levels, warm the water, and change the wind and water patterns that determine the health of the Reef. Queensland, the land closest to the Reef, has a great deal of agriculture and is under increasing regulation for pesticides and urban runoff that have been proven to jeopardize the Reefs health. These first two issues are directly tied to our lifestyle choices, so simple switches like buying local, seasonal, and organic food, along with watching your ecological impact can help today. As for our fascination with the Reef, and the tourism associated with it, Australia has worked hard to reduce the amount of traffic through environmental awareness. They have also instated rules to help reduce the impact we have on the Reef while still allowing us to enjoy it! As someone who was fortunate enough to scuba dive next to the reef and swim with little Nemo’s, it is an incredible opportunity. But making sure that you are boarding eco-conscious boats for your coral reef adventure can help both support the reef through tourism and support its rehabilitation by supporting a business that has integrated the eco-perspective for you. For the Aussie’s out there, the traveling fanatics, and the ethical consumer we can all help save the Reef. Although we may not be able to guide ships like the COSCO out of dangerous water, we can guide our actions away from threatening the Reef. Cheers to a global sense of environmental awareness! Thank you to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Great Barrier Reef non-profit, and the CRC Reef Research Centre for the above information.