The last hope of the Great Bikini Archipelago may have been shot off by a powerful storm in March but the world’s largest coral reef is still alive and thriving.
The Great Barrier Breaks Marine Park is home to more than 2,000 species of reef animals including rare species such as the rare white sand corals and tiny fish.
The Great Barrie Barrier Reef Marine Park, a National Marine Sanctuary in Queensland, was closed to fishing in the early hours of Thursday due to a massive storm that caused damage to its reefs.
The reef is now home to at least 500 unique corals, some of which are among the world ‘most endangered’, the Queensland government says.
But the state’s tourism industry is also concerned about the reef, which has suffered from pollution, habitat loss and overfishing.
The Queensland Government’s Environment Minister Steve Dickson said the storm forced the closure of the reef to allow authorities to work out how to repair the damage.
“We’re working with the Queensland Government to do some work and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has also agreed to help,” he said.
“It’s the first time we’ve closed the reef because of a major storm in our history.”
But Mr Dickson conceded that the Queensland and Australian Governments could not be at all certain about the damage caused by the storm.
“What we know is the damage is significant, and there is no indication that there are any fish or invertebrates living there at this point,” he told ABC Radio Queensland.
“It would be very difficult for us to say, ‘no, the reef is safe’.” He said that the state had been trying to restore the reef since it was first closed in 2014.
But he said he was still concerned about how long it could take.
“The state government is still working through the impacts of this storm, and the impact of this on the reef in the future, and we’re looking at what can be done in the meantime to restore it,” he explained.
“But the next thing to do is to try and make sure the reef does not deteriorate in the short term.”
The Queensland government has been working with other state and federal government agencies to get the reef back online.
ABC News Queensland’s meteorologist Dan Jones said he expected the Queensland tourism industry would be working hard to restore much of the affected area.
He told the ABC that the Great Barriere was the most endangered marine park in the world, with the last remaining corals living only on the northern and western sides.
“That’s why you have people who say, we don’t know what will happen if it gets really bad and then we lose the reef,” he added.
Mr Dickson stressed that the reef would be able to recover from the damage in about a week.
“They will recover and they will be back to normal and the tourism industry will continue to be the primary driver of the industry in the reef and hopefully the tourism will continue, and hopefully we will get another great event in the coming weeks,” he promised.
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