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The biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef is climate change and, while this requires global action, there are many things that residents and visitors to North Queensland can do locally to help the Great Barrier Reef.

Light-House-Bommie-resident-turtleThe coral bleaching event that attracted global media attention for the Great Barrier Reef was caused by record sea temperatures over the summer.

It mostly affected the more remote (and, unfortunately, the most pristine) northern parts of the Great Barrier Reef so visitors to other areas will still be able to enjoy all that the reef has to offer. For now.

However, the major concern with regards to coral bleaching is that these events are happening more regularly and not allowing enough time between events for the reef to recover.

Besides lobbying our governments to take action on climate change, we can help the reef bounce back from coral bleaching by removing other stressors such as pollution.

Here are our top tips on on what you can do at a local level to help the Great Barrier Reef:

[headline size=”small” align=”left”]1. say no to plastics[/headline]

tangaroa blueThe world’s oceans are choking in plastic and even some of the remotest parts of North Queensland suffer from marine debris washing up on beaches thanks to currents carrying rubbish down from Asia and from passing ships and boats. 

Unfortunately Queensland is not one of the Australian states that has banned single use plastic bags yet (although its only a matter of time) but visitors and locals can help by refusing single use plastic bags when offered. Just carry a reusable shopping bag instead.

Something else that international visitors can do is to not buy bottled water. Australia’s water supply is completely safe so you can save yourself money as well as helping the Reef by using a refillable water container from the tap.

Plastic straws are also a major hazard for our marine life so don’t accept one with your cocktail!

[headline size=”small” align=”left”]2. Choose eco-certified reef operators[/headline]

picture of passions of paradise boatThere is a huge amount of tour operators taking people out to the reef everyday for snorkelling and diving and some are more environmentally conscious than others.

So, if you want to make a difference support those operators who are advanced eco-certified and actively involved in initiatives to preserve the reef because they see the reef as more important than profits.

Also, when you visit the reef make sure you follow sustainable practice rules: don’t touch coral or take pieces with you as souvenirs (even if it looks dead), make sure you don’t damage coral with your fins and definitely don’t leave litter.

[headline size=”small” align=”left”]3. Volunteer[/headline]

DSC_1594There are many local organisations involved in community work that affects the reef.

These include local beach clean up organisation Tangaroa Blue as well as groups that are involved in land care and tree planting activities such as Treeforce in Cairns.

Planting trees along river banks helps with soil erosion and prevents sediment from entering our waterways, which eventually ends up on the reef.

Sediment particles smother coral reef organisms and also reduce the light reaching the coral as well as seagrass.

If you don’t want to volunteer your time, donate instead.

[headline size=”small” align=”left”]4. go carbon neutral[/headline]

Burning of fossil fuels is the main contributor to global warming and as a major coal and gas exporter, the Australian government has been slow to take action on climate change, even though over 30,000 jobs also depend on the Great Barrier Reef.

Besides lobbying them to get involved in global climate change initiatives, we can make choices that are better for the environment and it’s ecosystems, including the reef. These include choosing renewable energy and making your home energy efficient.

[headline size=”small” align=”left”]5. support organic farmers[/headline]

As a consumer there are lots of things you can do to help the Great Barrier Reef. Locally, a big one is to buy local organic food.

The biggest contributor to pollutants entering our waterways and ocean is from agricultural runoff. Over the past few decades farms have been relying more and more on artificial fertilisers and pesticides, which enter our streams and rivers and eventually wash out to the reef.

This is especially the case in the Wet Tropics where there is a lot of horticultural farming combined with periods of intense rainfall.

Organic farmers don’t use artificial chemicals so their impact on the environment is much less damaging. Plus, organic farmers focus on building soil health and diversity, so organic food also has more diverse nutrients so they’re better for you anyway.

[headline size=”small” align=”left”]6. reduce your use of chemicals[/headline]

Everything that we put into the environment can eventually end up out at sea so think twice before throwing weed killers around your garden and emptying paint pots down the sink.

You can also help by making ‘greener’ choices at the check out such as household cleaning agents, soaps and detergents.