Mackay protest pushes for better Barrier Reef protection
ENVIRONMENTAL activists, including a group of reef divers, gathered outside Dawson MP George Christensen's Mackay office today to present him with the symbolic 'bleached coral cup'.
However, Mr Christensen did not attend, issuing a statement to media that "he was too busy in the north of his electorate fighting for local jobs".
350.org, a "global grassroots climate movement", organised the protest, which they say was aimed at politicians showing "outstanding inaction on climate change".
The group is running a Pollution Free Politics campaign, demanding a ban on mining donations and fossil fuel subsidies.
Independent diver Tony Fontes, based in the Whitsundays, said "it's rather depressing when you watch your dive sites bleach and disappear".
"We've just witnessed the greatest coral bleaching event in the history of the Great Barrier Reef," he said.
"The scientists have made it clear this bleaching event is primarily due to global warming, which is predominantly caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
"So we're demanding more from our politicians to tackle climate change and global warming. It's not on the political agenda with most of the parties.
"We're demanding better protection for the reef."
Mr Fontes disputed Mr Christensen's claims the reef was in a relatively good state.
"I'm not sure how often George goes snorkelling on the reef," he said.
"It's been my living for 38 years and since I've been diving on the reef I've seen a distinct deterioration, primarily due to poor water quality, but now exacerbated by global warming.
"There's nothing more heart wrenching than seeing your favourite dive sites die. It's a slow motion death of the barrier reef."
Greens candidate for Dawson Jonathon Dykyj also attended the protest in support of the cause.
But Mr Christensen said the "doom and gloom" claims were alarmist and possibly damaging to the tourism industry.
"We have experienced coral bleaching because of an El Nino weather pattern and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) has stated that link is clear," Mr Christensen said.
"AIMS has said: "There is no clear link between enhanced greenhouse warming and the frequency or intensity of El Niño events" but "it is clear beyond doubt that El Niño cycles and mass bleaching are connected".
"What is also true is that any coral bleaching off Mackay and the Whitsundays is very minor, and I have seen reports from respected marine biologists that the situation in the far north of the state has also been exaggerated.
"These guys dived the reef rather than just flying over it, and their studies showed less than 1% mortality off Cairns and an average of 3.2% across the surveyed areas."
In another take, in April the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies said final results of extensive aerial and underwater surveys revealed 93% of the reef has been affected.
ARC blamed heightened sea temperatures due to global warming.