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How spreading the wrong message can damage the Reef

While it is extremely important that we continue to protect the Great Barrier Reef and allows its beauty and uniqueness to thrive, it is equally important that we spread true information about the reef and the status of its health to ensure its continued support.

The Great Barrier Reef is currently facing a coral bleaching episode, which cannot be denied nor disputed. It faces challenges of pollution and climate change everyday, which may have long term effects on how and if the reef will continue to thrive as it has in the past. While this all may be true, many parts of the reef continue to be healthy and to grow and promote the diverse life that lives there.

It is important not to lump all of the Great Barrier Reef together and recognise that the entire reef is not in peril and to ensure that correct information is being shared with the public, so we can tackle any future issues properly.  

While many good meaning people are spreading awareness about the importance of the reef and its relevance to the overarching ecosystem of the world’s oceans, a lot of false information is being spread that could in turn hurt the longevity and support for the reefs. For example, while 93 per cent of the reefs in the Great Barrier Reef has been affected by coral bleaching, it is unfair to say that “currently, 93% of the Great Barrier Reef has been left by its algae,” which implies that 93% of all the reefs have no algae left. Really what it means is that 93 per cent of reefs have some effects of coral bleaching, which may be as little as 1% or as large as 90%. The way we word things and spread messages can have ulterior effects we do not anticipate. Tourism can be drastically affected by these accusations, which in turn will hurt the reef long term. If people aren’t visiting, there is less money coming in, which means there is less budget for conservation. If it is presented as a lost cause that is damaged beyond repair, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy that will be just that if there is no money to continue to invest in its protection.

Recently environment minister Greg Hunt publicly criticised Ellen Degeneres for implying that Australia’s government isn’t doing enough to encourage the health of the reef, inviting her to come and see what we are doing to ensure its future and health. She is one of many celebrities rallying beyond “the cause” that is the Great Barrier Reef, and while support is paramount to its continued protection and survival, we must continue to promote correct and relevant messages so that the public and the Reefs support continue to be in the loop and understand all that is going on.

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