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9 April, 2021

Environmentalist refutes coral health claim

REEF Campaigner for the Mackay Conservation Group Tony Fontes has refuted a claim that corals found growing in Mackay Harbour a significant indication of reef health.

He said the claim, made by Dr Peter Ridd 'requires a huge stretch of scientific methodology and a fair amount of imainagtion'.

"Dr Ridd's contradictory claims regarding reef water quality have received little, if any back backing from the broader reef scientific community," he said.

If I a concerned about the health of the reef, and we should be, then i would prefer to reference the current scientific literature as provided by numerous trained coral scientists and water quality experts at James Cook University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).

Mr Fontes has 40 years experience as a dive operator in the Whitsundays and works with numerous reef conservation groups.

He said JCU and AIMS scientists are backed by over 25 years of reef research.

"That research has shown the increased sediment and nutrient loads to coastal waters

  • smother coral reef organisms due to the settling of suspended sediment;
  • Reduce light availability for coral and seagrass photosynthesis due to increased turbidity; (and)
  • Favour the growth of macroalgae at the expense of corals, due to high nutrient availability.

"More recent work on contaminants such as agricultural pesticides has shown that the potential build-up of contaminants can weaken the health and resilience of corals, making them more susceptible to disease outbreaks or climate impacts."

In 2019, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park AUIthority downgraded the health status of the reef from Poor to Very Poor.

This was primarily due to the threat of climate change.

"This is another area of disagreement as Dr Ridd, a climate sceptic, claims that climate change poses little to no threat to the reef," Mr Fontes said.

"While the vast majority of the scientific community sees climate change as the greatest threat to the health of the reef.

"For a healthy reef in the future, it would be wise to go with scientific consensus."

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