Great Barrier Reef suffering from 'complete ecosystem collapse'

Issue 
The Great Barrier Reef continues to bleach.

The chief investigator for Coral Watch Justin Marshall who spent a week this month conducting surveys on the reefs around Lizard Island has said parts of the Great Barrier Reef are suffering from “complete ecosystem collapse”, as fish numbers plummet and surviving corals continue to bleach.

He said: “The lack of fish was the most shocking thing. I was seeing a lot less than 50% of what was there [before the bleaching]. Some species I wasn't seeing at all.”

The chief investigator for Coral Watch Justin Marshall who spent a week this month conducting surveys on the reefs around Lizard Island has said parts of the Great Barrier Reef are suffering from “complete ecosystem collapse”, as fish numbers plummet and surviving corals continue to bleach.

He said: “The lack of fish was the most shocking thing. I was seeing a lot less than 50% of what was there [before the bleaching]. Some species I wasn't seeing at all.”

Marshall said without enough surviving corals, the fish didn't have the shelter and food sources they needed and had died or moved elsewhere. Without the fish the coral would face a harder time recovering, since the entire ecosystem had been degraded.

He was also surprised to see that some of the surviving corals continued to bleach, despite winter bringing cooler waters to the Great Barrier Reef.

He said many of them were probably not bleaching for the first time now but rather have remained bleached since it began. Marshall said he also saw some corals that had recovered, as well as some anemones that had bleached but not died.

But, overall, he estimated that more than 90% of the branching corals had died around Lizard Island.

Like the article? Subscribe to Green Left now! You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

If you like our work, become a supporter

Green Left is a vital social-change project and aims to make all content available online, without paywalls. With no corporate sponsors or advertising, we rely on support and donations from readers like you.

For just $5 per month get the Green Left digital edition in your inbox each week. For $10 per month get the above and the print edition delivered to your door. You can also add a donation to your support by choosing the solidarity option of $20 per month.

Freecall now on 1800 634 206 or follow the support link below to make a secure supporter payment or donation online.