Aerial survey data from the three mass bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef, 1998, 2002, and 2016. Full data for the 2016 event has not yet been made public and instead is aggregated into three large sections. Sources: 1998 and 2002 data from Aims; 2016 data from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. Graphic: The Guardian

By Michael Slezak
6 June 2016

(Guardian) – It was the smell that really got to diver Richard Vevers. The smell of death on the reef.

“I can’t even tell you how bad I smelt after the dive – the smell of millions of rotting animals.”

Vevers is a former advertising executive and is now the chief executive of the Ocean Agency, a not-for-profit company he founded to raise awareness of environmental problems.

After diving for 30 years in his spare time, he was compelled to combine his work and hobby when he was struck by the calamities faced by oceans around the world. Chief among them was coral bleaching, caused by climate change.

His job these days is rather morbid. He travels the world documenting dead and dying coral reefs, sometimes gathering photographs just ahead of their death, too.

With the world now in the midst of the longest and probably worst global coral bleaching event in history, it’s boom time for Vevers.

Even with all that experience, he’d never seen anything like the devastation he saw last month around Lizard Island in the northern third of Australia’s spectacular Great Barrier Reef.

As part of a project documenting the global bleaching event, he had surveyed Lizard Island, which sits about 90km north of Cooktown in far north Queensland, when it was in full glorious health; then just as it started bleaching this year; then finally a few weeks after the bleaching began.

“It was one of the most disgusting sights I’ve ever seen,” he says.

“The hard corals were dead and covered in algae, looking like they’ve been dead for years. The soft corals were still dying and the flesh of the animals was decomposing and dripping off the reef structure.” [more]

The Great Barrier Reef: a catastrophe laid bare



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