SCENIC: It has been a big year for the Great Barrier Reef in the Whitsundays.
SCENIC: It has been a big year for the Great Barrier Reef in the Whitsundays. Robert Irwin

Eyes firmly on the reef

THE state of the Great Barrier Reef has been up for debate this year.

Coral bleaching, the approval of the Adani Carmichael coal mine and failure to pass tree clearing laws has drawn the ire of environmental groups.

Australian Marine Conservation Society campaigner Cherry Muddle said an effective strategy to counter the effects of climate change would be required for the reef to remain a tourist hotspot.

"The reef experienced the worst coral bleaching event in its history this year, devastating 22% of the entire reef, but I know the Whitsundays is lucky to escape major bleaching,” she said.

"The positive side is despite these major threats, tourists continue coming to the reef and that is really positive for local families and local jobs.”

Dawson MP George Christensen rejected any suggestion the reef was in urgent danger.

"Rather than being an ailing heroine about to take her last gasp on a death bed of bleached coral, as many in the extreme green movement would have us believe, this magnificent environmental wonder is in resilient good health and attracting record numbers of visitors,” he said.

Cruise Whitsundays CEO Nick Hortle said he looked forward to seeing the reef thrive in the new year.

"The reality is our reef is in excellent condition and we are proud to demonstrate our activities and be a key contributor for management and Eye on the Reef programs,” he said.

Tourism operator Al Grundy said the success of the Eye on the Reef program was clear and hoped to see the data adequately acknowledged.

"One of the positive things moving forward is there is now acknowledgement from the government that the citizen science Eye on the Reef data is valuable,” he said.

"And to that end I believe next year when we realise our healthy rivers and reef report card we will finally see Eye on the Reef data forming part of that reef report card.”



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