The global challenges facing the Great Barrier Reef have been discussed at a meeting of minds in Brisbane today involving world renowned oceanographer, Dr Sylvia Earle.
National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence, Dr Sylvia Earle – recognised internationally for her work on deep sea marine ecosystems – shared her insights from a lifetime of marine exploration and conservation with Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce.
Dr Earle also met with Minister for the Environment and Great Barrier Reef, Dr Steven Miles, this morning [10 March] as part of the World Science Festival Brisbane.
“We are extremely pleased to welcome Dr Sylvia Earle to Queensland for the World Science Festival and support the work of the Queensland Museum which secured this prestigious event,” Dr Miles said. “It is the first time this Festival has been held outside of New York.”
“Today’s meeting was a tremendous opportunity for our Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce experts to discuss issues of concern regarding marine environments and more specifically, the Great Barrier Reef with Dr Earle.”
Dr Miles said the roundtable discussions included conversations about the global challenges facing coral reefs such as climate change, rising sea temperatures, increased extreme weather events and coral bleaching.
“The Taskforce detailed their priorities such as reducing nutrient and sediment run-off from the catchments.”
“We wanted to highlight Queensland’s recent work protecting the Great Barrier Reef and addressing climate change but we also wanted to gain insights from Dr Earle and her extensive research in this field.
“And we talked about our proposals to protect several important Central Queensland fish habitats through Declared Fish Habitat Areas. These areas play an important role in protecting the Great Barrier Reef by minimising coastal development which can lead to loss of habitat and decline in water quality.”
Heralded as a ‘Living Legend’ by the United States Library of Congress and a ‘Hero for the Planet’ by Time magazine, Dr Sylvia Earle has led more than a hundred expeditions and logged more than 7,000 hours underwater.
“The biggest discovery we’ve made about the ocean is that it’s vulnerable. We used to think the ocean was too big to fail – we could put anything into it, take anything out of it, and the ocean would just roll with it but now we know better,” said Dr Earle.
“We know we can harm the ocean but we also know we can protect the ocean.”
Dr Earle acknowledged the work that has been done to protect the Great Barrier Reef as a model for the world, actions that others should emulate.
“We’ve learned much over the years but we’ve also lost much. Half the coral reefs are gone or in a state of decline. It’s like a race: can we take action while there is still time?
“But there is good news. Half the coral reefs are still in pretty good shape, a jewelled belt around the middle of the planet. There’s still time, but not a lot, to turn things around.”
Dr Earle is a panellist in two World Science Festival Main Stage events today [10 March]:
- Can We Save Our Precious Reefs In Time
- Dawn of the Human Age.
The World Science Festival Brisbane is on until 13 March 2016. More information on Dr Sylvia Earle and the festival is available here http://www.worldsciencefestival.com.au/.