*The Great Barrier Reef is not only the largest network of coral reefs on the globe, but also it’s a glorious cornucopia of biological diversity, or, life.
The Reef is under siege. It’s coming undone at an unprecedented rate from accelerated man-made heatwaves, super coal tanker incessant noise, the Sixth Mass Extinction and a horrendous onslaught of man-made long-lasting toxic chemicals.
My colleagues have only just begun scratching the surface in cataloguing the breathtaking diversity of marine life. They have identified 1,625 species of bony fish, six of the seven masterpiece marine turtle species, 30 kinds of whales and dolphins, 20 breeding sea bird species and an astounding array of 136 species of sharks and their first cousins, the rays.
Man has infused the equivalent heat into the ocean from burning subsidized, climate-destroying fossil fuels of one Hiroshima-style atomic bomb detonating every minute, 24/7/365, for 75 straight years.”
As a result, the number, duration and intensity of marine heatwaves has accelerated significantly since 1982.
The longest record global marine heatwave occurred from 2014-2017. That heat was deadly for corals and more specifically the Great Barrier Reef. Two consecutive long lasting heatwaves (2016 and 2017) killed about 50 percent of the reefs as deep as 131 feet beneath the Pacific Ocean along Queensland, Australia.
The knock on effect is horrific because the corals are vital habitat for up to one third of all marine life in northeastern Australia including many migratory species. No reefs, no marine life.
Given the unfathomable loss of coral reefs from man-made fossil fuel heat, it is infuriating that the Queensland government still promotes a shark fishery in addition to a “shark control program” with its slow torturous deadly drumlines and nets.
My colleagues have shown that the presence of sharks ensures the health of the remaining Great Barrier Reef. The Queensland government is hastening the demise of the remaining reefs and its sharks, rays, turtles, cetaceans and so many other priceless masterpieces caught and drowned slowly on drumlines and in nets. In 2017, a total of 46 of our brothers and sisters, hammerheads, were deliberately destroyed. Since 2008, 451 endangered hammerhead masterpieces have been plundered and then disdainfully discarded. Unacceptable.
My friend Jeff Hansen, managing director of Sea Shepherd Australia aptly refers to the sharks as “Doctors of the Sea.” They remove old, weak and sick prey. Sharks enhance the fitness of our oceans.
Sharks have swum the seas and survived for 400 million years. They grow slowly, mature late and have relatively low rates of reproduction. Sharks have few predators and so they self regulate their populations. They have withstood the last four mass extinctions. Phenomenal.
Why are the Queensland and federal Australian governments permitting the extermination of the endangered scalloped hammerheads? It’s morally evil.
A couple billion legal and illegal hooks attached to 13 million miles of longlines, enough to encircle the equator 522 times, are indiscriminately killing 50 million sharks annually. Another estimated 50 million sharks are poached each year for their fins and liver oil. At this psychotic massacring pace all shark species are doomed in the forthcoming decade(s). No sharks, no reefs, no fish, no marine life.
Each year, 250 billion metric tons of man-made long-lasting poisons are released into the biosphere, or, all living spaces on the planet. Most of those deadly poisons are winding up in the oceans. For example, the bottoms of the Pacific and Mariana Trenches have 50 times higher concentrations of PCBs and flame retardants than the world’s most polluted delta, the Liaohe River system in China.
Shockingly, necropsies from green sea turtles found along the Great Barrier Reef revealed the indicators for thousands of man-made chemicals present in their blood serums. Horrible.
What we do to the oceans with fossil fuel heat, the insane slaughter of all sea life and the dumping of cancer causing poisons, we do to ourselves.
There’s only one way to repair the oceans:
- End fossil fuel subsidies of$5.3 trillion annually.
- Reduce fossil fuel emissions immediately.
- No new coalmines.
- Quickly deploy on each continent solar-concentrated farms generating supercritical steam with lithium-ion storage facilities.
- Remove all drumlines, nets, hooks and ghost nets globally.
- Outlaw dumping 640,000 metric tons of fisheries gear annually.
- End all fisheries for 50 years.
- Curtail dumping all man-made poisons into the sea.
Ladies and gentlemen we must not go quietly into this hideous impoverished future.
Please support the crucial work of the direct-action conservation movement Sea Shepherd because they are protecting the masterpieces, the sharks!
Dr Reese Halter is an award-winning broadcaster, distinguished conservation biologist and author.
Dr Reese Halter’s latest book is