News from the Great Barrier Reef. The Good, the Bad and Cool Projects

News from the Great Barrier Reef

If you have not visited the Great Barrier of Reef this year, well you are not alone. Here are some news, some not great but some hearth warming ones two, from Australia’s iconic travel destination.  In the past year, this living architecture masterpiece has continued to deploy its colours and its surrealist picture-perfect frames filled with fishes and other amazing creatures whilst we were all inside due to COVID. However, quietly, in the background of all this pandemic whirlwind, some important events have happened this year for one’s of Australia’s World Heritage Classified area; The Great Barrier Reef.  

Great Barrier Reef

Every three year, UNESCO listed natural world heritage areas around the world (252 in total)  are assessed and given an outlook for their conditions; tracking their progress or their deterioration.  This year’s report came out in November and shows that our beloved reef is deteriorating to the point where it was reclassified from “Significant Concern” to “Critical”.  Unfortunately, this was expected.   In the austral summer 2019-2020, the reef saw a widespread coral bleaching event. Corals may be able to recover when there is bleaching caused by high water temperatures but when they come repeatedly, there is just no time to recover and this is what is happening.  Throw in the mix other treats like ocean acidification, outbreaks of predatory species,  cyclones and pollution and you have a struggling reef, running on empty, out of breath and struggling to get back on its feet. 

What can we do

The most important treat to the reef is climate change and out of the 252 natural world heritage area, the reef is not alone.  The IUCN Committee has identified that it is the most important treat to natural world heritage areas around the world.  This really shows that climate change is not something that will affect us in the distant future but that it is affecting the planet right now, under our very eyes.

If history has sown us something though, humans, like the reef, are adaptable and resilient. We are also able to be creative and cooperative. There are a number of initiatives and incredible people working on giving a hand to the reef and all of us, in our own way, big or small, can contribute.

The most important thing we can all do is to reduce our carbon footprint and to make sure our politicians put this on the priority list by signing petitions and sending them letters.  There are a number of options to help understand our carbon footprint.  If you are wondering where to start, check out my article on how to calculate your footprint. We all have different lifestyles and what I do may not suit someone else.  What is important is that we all do a little something and make incremental changes. It is not about being perfect from the start but every little bit count.

Some really cool projects

There are several other ways in which we can help the reef without the need to leave our home. Citizen science projects are a fun way to help out.  The virtual reef is now here! Through this portal, you can help classifying photos from the reef increase monitoring and contribute to scientific projects.  You can also upload photos if you happen to be lucky enough to visit.  You can spend a few minutes on the platform and contribute to monitoring projects.  Bonus, you get to see the reef from the comfort of your home. Check out the platform here.

Museum of underwater Art (MOUA) - Photo by Matt Curnock
Museum of underwater Art (MOUA)
Photo by Matt Curnock

A pretty cool project can be found on Kickstarter. The project is an interdisciplinary initiative composed of scientists, tourism operators, local businesses and a world-renowned artist.  Just off of Townsville, the MOUA or Museum of underwater art is the first of its kind in Australia.  The world-renowned artist and conservationist Jason Decaires Taylor has made a monumental installation in the form of a living underwater greenhouse.  The building is now in its underwater home but planting reefs would help to really make it come alive. The Kickstarter project will help to do just that.  Check it out here!  Funding deadline is 25th of December 2020. Just in time for Christmas! Get in quick!

Another way in which we can contribute is to help out fund a coral farm project.  What a great Christmas gift! If you want to contribute, check the Reef Restoration Foundation here

There are many ways in which we can help the reef,  as you can see, even if you live in the city or are stuck at home, get your keyboards going!  Most importantly, spread the word. Share this article and let’s help the reef to be more resilient. Oh, and if you visit the Great Barrier Reef, you will be stoked. There is still just nothing else like it. Make sure you take only memories and leave only footsteps on the beach.

Until next time, travel safe,



Should we ban reef toxic sunscreen in Australia?

Should we ban reef toxic sunscreen in Australia?

*** Don’t feel like reading? watch the video here ***

2020 will be a big year for the Great Barrier Reef. In 2015, which is when the World Heritage Committee last did an extensive review of the Great Barrier Reef, the Great Barrier narrowly avoided the status of “in danger”. The Reef Plan 2050 was published by the Commonwealth and Queensland government to ensure that the reef continues to improve on its Outstanding Universal Value every decade.

In 2020, the Committee will re-assess the Great Barrier Reef and decide whether or not it is now considered “in danger”. Since 2015, the health of the reef has generally declined. (GBR Outlook Report 2019 and The joint Australian/Queensland Government’s GBR Water Quality report card).

Great Barrier Reef
Heart Reef in the Great Barrier Reef, viewed from a Seaplane

How can we help the Great Barrier Reef?

Climate change has been recognised to be the highest threat to the reef. From more intense cyclone to an increase in water temperatures and acidity, climate change is threatening the reef.

As the reef becomes more vulnerable, other problems become more and more apparent: Reef toxic sunscreen.

According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, there are approximately 2.2 million people who visited the Great Barrier of Reef in 2018. That is a lot of people in contact with the reef. Now, not everybody wears sunscreen or toxic sunscreen but it is likely that a lot of them do.

Especially because the reef is really vulnerable, every positive step that we can take counts!


But what is a reef toxic sunscreen?

The two most toxic ingredients frequently found in sunscreen are oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Sunscreen anyone?

The first chemical used in sunscreen that was found to have a negative effect on corals and marine life is oxybenzone.  Even one drop of oxybenzone in six Olympic-size swimming pool can cause damages. It deforms coral, causes coral bleaching and eventually death. There are other substances that are considered harmful, whether active ingredients of preservatives. Chemicals in sunscreens that can harm marine life include: Oxybenzone, Benzophenone-1, Benzophenone-8, OD-PABA, 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor, 3-Benzylidene camphor, nano-Titanium dioxide, nano-Zinc oxide. The most common and harmful ones are Oxybenzone and octinoxate.

The effects on coral are quite scary.  So much so, that the island country of Palau has already banned them and Hawaii has voted to ban them by 2021. The ban concern sunscreen containing  oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Now that raises the question about the Great Barrier Reef. As Australia is the custodian of this World Heritage area, every step counts.

First, start by checking out the ingredients in your sunscreen and don’t buy those with harmful chemicals.  If you are looking for a reef-friendly sunscreen, check out our website here.

Reef-safe sunscreen
Reef-safe sunscreen

Second, raise awareness and start talking about it.  Sign a petition to ensure that Australia bans those damaging chemicals in sunscreens.

Together, let’s give the reef a chance to recover for future generation to enjoy.