The Great Barrier Reef’s Facing A ‘Severe’ Bleach Event Right As The UN Rocks Up To Assess It

Bad news for the turts, sea-cucumbers, octopi and other wondrous sea creatures. Our big, beautiful Great Barrier Reef is facing another coral bleaching event.

Tell me again that we don’t need climate action now.

There were fears that the Reef could be about to undergo another mass bleaching event back in January. Scientists can’t make a call just yet about exactly how bad the bleaching is.

But the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority (GBRMPA) has confirmed that there’s widespread bleaching across the Reef.

GBRMPA says that bleaching ranges from “minor” to “severe”. Great!

And this all going down right before the UN rocks up to inspect the Great Barrier Reef. The whole reason the UN’s visiting is to decide whether the Reef’s World Heritage status is going to get downgraded.

Why would it get downgraded you ask? Well, because it’s been so badly damaged by global warming!

The UN’s delegates are arriving on Sunday March 18 to assess the reef’s status.

A spokesperson for Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley told the ABC that any bleaching is a “concern”.

“It is why we are investing an additional $1 billion in the reef, to strengthen its resilience in the face of these challenges.

“This is the best-managed reef in the world and as a result of our collaborations with scientists, reef managers, traditional owners, farmers and local communities it is also the most closely monitored.”


While scientists are still working out just how bad the damage is, they’ve recorded some coral deaths. Scientists can’t confirmed if it’s a mass bleaching event just yet because they haven’t finished assessing all the data.

But chief scientist for GBRMPA Professor David Wachenfeld said the situation on the reef was “concerning”.

“There certainly is a risk that we are seeing a mass bleaching event,” he told the ABC.

It’s also really quite worrying that this is happening during Ms La Niña. While we may hate her for all the rain, La Niña summers are usually cooler which is nice for the coral.

As Professor Terry Hughes pointed out on Twitter, corals don’t usually bleach during La Niña.

The Great Barrier Reef has already undergone five mass bleaching events in 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017 and 2020.

According to The Guardian, bleaching events are determined based on how many corals in an individual reef are bleached.

If up to 10 per cent are bleached that’s considered minor. Moderate bleaching is up 30 per cent, up to 60 per cent is major bleaching and over 60 is severe.

One of the core reasons why coral reefs get bleached is global warming.

“Coral bleaching is directly attributable to climate change caused by rising global emissions,” said WWF for Nature Australia’s Richard Leck as per 9News.

“Reducing Australia’s domestic and exported emissions fast, this decade, is the main solution within our control.”

So if we want to end the bleaching, we have to tackle global warming first. Maybe it’s time to start writing to those pollies.