A representative for Queensland tourism has taken the unusual step of calling a leading Great Barrier Reef scientist “a dick” and criticizing him for reporting on the poor health of the coral, Guardian Australia reports.
The comment comes from Col McKenzie, who is the head of the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators. This organization represents over 100 tourism-based businesses that operate in the Great Barrier Reef, including cruise and dive operators. It comes after McKenzie also penned a letter to the Australian government asking them to cut funding to Professor Terry Hughes who, he claims, has been making misleading and damaging comments about the health of the reef.
“I think Terry Hughes is a dick,” Col McKenzie told Guardian Australia. “I believe he has done tens of millions of dollars of damage to our reef in our key markets, being America and Europe. You went to those areas in 2017 and they were convinced the reef was dead. And people won’t do long-haul trips when they think the reef is dead.”
Unsurprisingly, conservation groups have a fair amount to say about this stance. Rather than shooting the messenger – as Hughes is simply reporting on and recording what is happening to the reef as the ocean temperatures rise – perhaps the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators should be focusing their ire on major polluters and what the government plans to do about climate change, instead.
“Blaming scientists and attempting to get their funding cut is the worst possible response to this crisis,” the Australian Conservation Foundation’s CEO Kelly O’Shanassy explained to The Guardian. “Scientists are not to blame. Big polluters and their political allies are to blame.”
“We need high-quality science more than ever so we can monitor and track what’s happening to the reef.”
McKenzie does not necessarily disagree with the fact that more needs to be done to keep the 2,900 reefs healthy, but he has a major issue with how Hughes has been reporting it, arguing that many people abroad now think that large swathes of the Great Barrier Reef are dead.
This mainly comes following Hughes' far-reaching paper that found that a shocking 93 percent of reefs sampled had experienced some form of coral bleaching in 2016, with up to 50 percent of reefs in the northern section dying. A further report published this year has found that the frequency of bleaching events has increased dramatically since 1980, harming the reefs' ability to recover.
Just because these findings are tragic, it doesn’t mean that they should not be reported. Hughes points out that the science behind them is neither junk nor misleading, with most of his recent papers being published in leading scientific journals.
[H/T: The Guardian]