Great Barrier Reef: Jobs under threat from climate change

Picture: Paul Harris
Picture: Paul Harris

My wife and I moved to Cairns 10 years ago because of the Great Barrier Reef.

It was a complete lifestyle change - we sold what we owned in New Zealand in the belief we were heading towards a better life in the lucky country.

As a dive instructor and boat skipper, work opportunities in Cairns were initially year-round.

The appeal for tourists of constant warm water for snorkelling and diving amongst a vibrant reef full of life was magnetic.

But how times have changed.

Whatever you think about climate change and its causes, you can see it in action on the reef.

I spend my working life around it and - in shallow areas in particular - there is no doubt the reef is dying.

Last week, it was reported that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority - the federal government's lead agency for managing the reef - have prepared a climate change position statement saying we must limit global warming to 1.5C if we are to save the reef.

But it's not just the science showing us how climate change is destroying the reef.

Once vibrant colours in hard and soft corals have become brown or white. Giant clams are covered by disgusting brown algae.

I have to be honest with customers and tell them how the reef is being destroyed - many are being sold a lie about what to expect.

It's true that in deeper areas the reef is in better shape, but it's tragic that we now have to look for that, rather than it being there on every dive.

It's not the same as when we first started coming to Cairns and Port Douglas for holidays 15 years ago and it's not even the same as it was four years ago.

My job and the "better life" we moved here for are under threat. There are so many others around me in the same boat.

The reef provides 64,000 jobs and 6.4 billion dollars to the Australian economy - figures that will die out with the reef in years to come.

But not all hope is lost, there are still regions of the reef that I can take people to admire and enjoy.

These areas have a chance of survival, but we can't afford further increases in global temperatures and coral bleaching events.

For the sake of the reef and Australian livelihoods, we must act on climate change today.

Richard Campbell is a dive instructor and boat skipper in Queensland.