The Great Barrier Reef – Still Colourful Corals and Curious Fish

What is the true state of the Great Barrier Reef? If you asked most Australians, they’d say the Great Barrier Reef is at risk of imminent collapse from climate change. It was for questioning this claim, and the quality of science behind it, that eventually led to Dr Peter Ridd being sacked from James Cook University.

In January 2020, Emmy Award winning cameraman Clint Hempsall, and IPA Senior Fellow Jennifer Marohasy decided to find out. They spent a week exploring the Ribbon Reefs 250kms to the north east of Cairns in search of coral bleaching – the process of corals turning white as a result of warmer water temperature, which climate scientists say is being caused by climate change. Some argue 60% of the coral at the Ribbon Reefs was irretrievably bleached in 2016.

If there was extensive bleaching back then, Jennifer and Clint couldn’t find much evidence of it in January this year. What they did find was healthy corals, curious clown fish, a giant potato cod, reef sharks, and an underwater cave. Indeed, much of the coral Clint filmed was growing vertically and would thus be invisible to the aerial surveys underpinning the bleaching scare.

The Ribbon Reefs have coral gardens hanging over underwater cliff-faces that drop 2,000 metres to the sea floor – all washed over twice a day by the warm waters of the South Pacific. There are ten such coral reefs in far north Queensland where they grow over the top of the north eastern edge of Australia’s continental shelf.