Urgent action is needed to protect Great Barrier Reef

As a Cairns tourism operator of over 30 years, I live and breathe the Great Barrier Reef.

I know its vast beauty – from the smallest, most intricate corals to the magnificent humpback whales that visit each year.

I also know all too well the serious challenges facing our reef, with warming temperatures the foremost threat.

Summer on the Great Barrier Reef is possibly my favourite time as my kids are home from university and come work with me on the boat, learning about a business they may one day want to inherit.

Summer also means smaller visitor numbers compared to the mid-year peak season, allowing an even more personal experience for passengers.

However, summer on the reef is rapidly changing.

With warming ocean temperatures, we’re now on high alert for signs of bleached white or fluorescing corals that could indicate another mass coral bleaching event.

We saw the threat climate change poses to coral reefs in the marine heatwave of 2016 and 2017.

Temperatures got so high that some corals simply cooked in the hot waters.

On our boat, we pride ourselves in being a leader in sustainable ecotourism.

Every day we reveal the beauty of this natural icon to visitors from all across the world, spreading a message of conservation and appreciation.

We offset our carbon emissions – helping plant 1200 trees in the Daintree Rainforest last year – and invest in scientific research.

But on our own, tourism operators cannot safeguard the future of the Great Barrier Reef. Unless we take urgent action to stop global warming, we may not be able to avoid worse climate damage in the years to come.

The future of our reef and the $6 billion tourism industry that relies on it, depend on strong collective action to keep temperatures below 1.5°C.

This is why – together with more than 150 tourism operators and other local businesses – we’ve signed the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s declaration calling for the federal government to stand up for the future of our reef – and the 64,000 jobs it sustains – by taking strong action on climate change.

To give our reef the best chance for the future, Australia must rapidly phase out fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy.

In the years to come, I want to be able to pass my business onto my children. The time for action is now.

Alan Wallish is the co-owner and operator of Passions of Paradise.