What do Australia’s coral reefs mean to you?
In celebration of Australian Biodiversity Month in September, Reef Check Australia is pleased to announce our inaugural photography competition. The goal of the competition is to showcase the Australian public’s ‘vision’ of the value of our coral reefs and global threats that they currently face. These “values” include social activities and recreational pastimes such as diving, snorkeling, sailing and fishing, traditional cultural activities for many indigenous Australians and commercial ventures such as tourism and gathering seafood.
The Australian coastline is home to some of the most pristine coral reef environments that can still be found on the planet. Australia’s coral reefs have global ecological, social and economic value. The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) World Heritage Area is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem that extends for more than 2000 kms along Queensland’s coastline. The GBR is home to 100’s of coral species, 1000’s of fish species, 6 out of 7 species of marine turtle and is a migration route for many whale species. Likewise the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia is an amazingly diverse environment for coral, fish and marine animals including manta rays and the world’s largest fish species the iconic “Whaleshark”.
Data collected over the past ten years by Reef Check, the world’s largest coral reef monitoring organization, shows that threats such as unsustainable fishing, declining water quality and coral bleaching caused by climate change are continuing to damage the health of coral reefs worldwide. Whilst Australia’s coral reefs are amongst the best managed in the world they are not immune to these threats.
“On a global scale we are winning some key battles but losing the war to save coral reefs,” said Gregor Hodgson, a coral reef ecologist and Reef Check Executive Director. “Many of the reefs I enjoyed 30 years ago have lost their living corals and are now sponge and algae reefs. The good news is that in cases where we stop abusing the reefs they can recover naturally.”
According to Reef Check, the major problem facing coral reefs is the lack of public awareness about their incredible ecological and social value and the crisis affecting their health. Coral reefs are located underwater, therefore only a fraction of the world has seen them. It is not widely known that the world has been losing about 5% of coral reefs per year over the past decade. Equally poorly known is the high economic value of coral reefs.
The Australian tourism industry depends heavily on coral reefs. GBR tourism is worth approximately $5.1 billion to our economy and employs >60,000 people. Reefs also protect the coast from storm damage and tsunami waves and are a food source for 500 million people worldwide. Coral reefs may save your life or that of a loved one: more than a dozen new pharmaceuticals that are currently being tested are based on unique compounds found in coral reef organisms.
Pictures speak a thousand words: The Reef Check Australia photography competition includes a number of submission categories that give the Australian public the opportunity to show the world how they ‘value’ our coral reefs both now and into the future. Winners will be rewarded with a range of prizes that include underwater cameras, resort accommodation, diving / snorkeling / sailing trips to the GBR and coral conservation kits.
The biodiversity of Australia’s coral reefs is reflected in the diversity of ways in which we utilize and enjoy these iconic resources. By showcasing the multitude of different ways that we ‘value’ our reefs we can raise public and political awareness of the importance of responding to climate change and other global threats to coral reefs.
View entries, cast votes, and submit entries by visiting Reef Check Photography Competition.