Great Barrier Reef tourism: caught between commerce and conservation alarm

Source: The Guardian

More people than ever are coming to see the reef and those who make a living showing it off want the world to know it’s still a natural wonder. But they worry about its future, and that of their 64,000-strong industry

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‘Possibly more famous than Australia’: Tourism operators say much of the Great Barrier Reef is still healthy and worth visiting despite bleaching in many areas. Photograph: Daniela Dirscherl/Getty Images/WaterFrame RM

In the dark clouds gathering over the future of the Great Barrier Reef, there has been a small silver lining for the people who make their living showcasing the natural wonder.

When the reef was rocked by an unprecedented second mass bleaching event in the space of a year, the coral hardest-hit by heat stress lay mostly in the tourist-heavy latitudes between Cairns and Townsville.

But despite last year’s damage compounded by new cases dotted across 800 reefs in a 1,500km stretch, not a single reef tourism operator has been forced to seek out new ground to take visitors.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which licenses operators to visit designated reef sites, confirmed it has received one request to change a permit. And that was not because of bleaching but Cyclone Debbie further south, whichdamaged that other hub of reef tourism, the Whitsundays after it escaped the bleaching.

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