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The BBC & The Great Barrier Reef Scare

September 6, 2016
tags: ,

By Paul Homewood




Yet more inaccurate, overhyped and one-sided propaganda from the BBC.


The BBC story is based on a study by the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, run by a guy called Terry Hughes. But as Jo Nova points out:


The chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Russell Reichelt says that activist groups are distorting surveys, maps and data to exaggerate the coral bleaching on the reef. The bleaching affects 22% of the reef and is mostly localized to the far northern section, which has good prospects of recovery.

Two reef groups are in conflict. One is Reichelt’s GBR Authority, and the other is a special “National Coral Bleaching Taskforce” run by a guy called Terry Hughes.  The Australian media was overrun with stories last week about how a report was censored to hide the damage. What was under-reported was the conflict and the propaganda.

The real problem appears to be that yet another agency was set up to find a crisis, and their existence depends on finding one. The Taskforce was set up in October last year.

ABC repeats all the Taskforce’s claims without question: “Great Barrier Reef: Only 7 per cent not bleached, survey finds”.


The Taskforce’s report was so bad the GBR authority had to withdraw from it:

Great Barrier Reef: scientists ‘exaggerated’ coral bleaching

Dr Reichelt said the authority had withdrawn from a joint ­announcement on coral bleaching with Professor Hughes this week “because we didn’t think it told the whole story”. The taskforce said mass bleaching had killed 35 per cent of corals on the northern and central Great Barrier Reef.

Dr Reichelt said maps accompanying the research had been misleading, exaggerating the ­impact. “I don’t know whether it was a deliberate sleight of hand or lack of geographic knowledge but it certainly suits the purpose of the people who sent it out,” he said.

“This is a frightening enough story with the facts, you don’t need to dress them up. We don’t want to be seen as saying there is no ­problem out there but we do want people to understand there is a lot of the reef that is unscathed.”

Dr Reichelt said there had been widespread misinterpretation of how much of the reef had died.

“We’ve seen headlines stating that 93 per cent of the reef is prac­tic­ally dead,” he said.

“We’ve also seen reports that 35 per cent, or even 50 per cent, of the entire reef is now gone.

–Graham Lloyd, The Australian

The censored report apparently also said good things about Turnbull’s reef plan. Hard to believe the government would be in a rush to censor that.


How bad is the propaganda? So bad the ABC and Greenpeace use photos of coral in Samoa

We have the largest coral reef structure in the world, but sometimes the ABC can’t find a picture of bleaching from it, instead using an image from Samoa (top right). Greenpeace used the same trick. The Courier Mail reported that the ABC and Greenpeace were caught, the ABC apologized, and replaced the photo on one of their many pages, but 7 months later, the unlabelled Samoan image still appears on stories about Barrier Reef bleaching and on stories of mass coral bleaching.  Looks like a billion dollars isn’t enough to pay for someone to do a 2 minute search at the ABC. Fact checking? Who cares?


Reefs do recover

The world was hotter during the Holocene optimum, yet somehow the Great Barrier Reef survived.

Veteran reef divers have seen corals recover from bleaching before:

Bob Halstead, a veteran Coral Sea diver and member of the international scuba hall of fame alongside Jacques Cousteau and Sylvia Earle, says up to 90 per cent of corals on the iconic Ribbon Reefs show signs of stress.

But he is still confident of a quick recovery. “This may be the worst bleaching in Great Barrier Reef history, but I have seen far worse in PNG, and recovery in a few years,” he says. “So this is rather like the fires that ‘devastate’ and ‘destroy’ forests which then happily regenerate and no more is heard about it,” Halstead says.

“If someone has not seen these effects before, the ‘bleaching’ is very dramatic, however I have seen this before, and I am not nearly as alarmed as I used to be.

“The problem with all the ‘disaster’ hyperbole is that yet again the Great Barrier Reef will get world publicity reinforcing the idea that it is dead and not worth visiting.

“I have asked many potential diving visitor friends of mine why they do not dive the Great Barrier Reef and they tell me it is because they have heard it is ‘dead’. — Graham Lloyd, The Australian


Prof Peter Ridd reports that there is a heavy price to speaking out about reef politics

From comments on The Australian.

I find it interesting that The Head of GBRMPA has said that Prof Terry Hughes organisation was “misleading” the public.

I recently made a similar comment of Prof Hughes organisation (COE Coral Reef Studies at JCU) about a related issue – they stated that there was no coral on a particular reef and I furnished photographic evidence that this was incorrect. I stated that the information from Hughes organisation was “misleading” among other things including that there is clearly a need for some better quality assurance of the science.

For my sins,  I was hit with an academic misconduct charge from JCU, found guilty, and duly threatened with dismissal if I transgressed again. I am still bewildered by what happened.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg as far as exaggeration of threats to the GBR is concerned.

Prof Peter Ridd

Marine Geophysics Laboratory

James Cook University


We also had this report from Cairns News last month:





The healthy Great Barrier Reef deniers have been caught out lying about coral bleaching and the near-pristine condition of the world’s best coral icon.


Photo: Quicksilver Cruises Dive boat operators maintain the reef is in near-pristine condition, dismissing the lies of conservation groups



Dive boat operators who visit the reef almost on a daily basis taking thousands of tourists on diving expeditions have been telling authorities for several years there is nothing wrong with the reef.

They have warned lying so-called conservation bodies such as the WWF, Wilderness Society, CAFNEC, the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce and the Australian Conservation Foundation their misleading campaigns would harm the Far North tourism trade.

Tourist operators have advised the State Government that coral bleaching is a natural and annual event that can affect small sections of the reef.

Spirit of Freedom dive boat owner Chris Eade told the Cairns Post that reports of coral bleaching along 93 per cent of the 2300 klm reef had damaged the reputation of the $5 billion tourism industry.

“Scientists had written off the entire northern section as a complete white-out,” Mr Eade said.

“We expected the worst, but it is in tremendous condition, most of it pristine, the rest in full recovery.”

“It shows the resilience of the reef.”

Mike Ball Dive Expeditions operations manager Craig Stephen, who conducted a similar survey on the remote reefs 20 years ago, said there had been almost no change in two decades despite the latest coral bleaching event.

“The discrepancy is phenomenal. It is so wrong. Everywhere we have been we have found healthy reefs,” Mr Ball said.

“There has been a great disservice to the Great Barrier Reef and tourism and it has not been good for our industry.”

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority estimated a mass coral white-out of between 50 to 60 per cent, on average, for reefs off Cape York.

Scientists with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies reported about 35 per cent mortality but warned “the final death toll” on some reefs may exceed 90 per cent.

This year the worst bleaching was found at Lizard Island, 180 klms north of Cooktown, where several reefs have shown distress due to fluctuating water temperatures.


The Reef is millions of years old, and has gone through much hotter times, even as recently as the early Holocene, and happily survived. Although the BBC quote other bleachings in the early 20thC, there is no evidence that similar events have not happened at regular intervals in earlier centuries, as nobody was around to check.


As Jo comments, Terry Hughes runs an agency that was set up to find a crisis, and its existence depends on finding one. That does not necessarily mean its findings are wrong, but there is another side to the story that the BBC, not for the first time, is failing to present. 

  1. September 6, 2016 6:27 pm

    Despicable reporting and falsification. These clowns will cost people their jobs whilst theybline their own pockets with gold for their lies.
    We heard the same lies from Barack Obama and the BBC when Simon Reeve went there.

  2. tom0mason permalink
    September 6, 2016 6:50 pm

    What really annoys me is this organization is supposed to be apolitical and objective in its reporting. Can anyone hear anything from this broadcast that is not biased, not alarmist?

    This arguably is one of the most one sided piece I have ever heard from this propaganda organizations.

    The old BBC coat of arms
    The new BBC motto ‘Nation shall speak peace advocacy pieces unto Nation’
    Defund them NOW!

  3. September 6, 2016 6:53 pm

    Good that you are giving this appalling alarmist misinformation wider attention. When conditions change, corals expel their symbionts and await a more suitable repopulation. Since the coral polyps are translucent without their symbionts, the calcium carbonate ‘skeletons’ appear white. Very natural process over months. It takes 1-2 years without a suitable symbiont repopulation before the coral polyps ‘starve to death’ from subsisting on filter feeding alone, leaving just the dead skeletons. In that unfortunate case, the reef will still fully repopulate in about 10 years from coral spawn from elsewhere.

  4. Harry Passfield permalink
    September 6, 2016 7:22 pm

    Paul, I look forward to Booker picking up on this and, hopefully, bringing it to a larger audience in the DT – assuming it has not yet gone totally tits up.

  5. CheshireRed permalink
    September 6, 2016 7:30 pm

    Coral bleaching, ocean acidification, ocean heat temperature, storms & hurricanes, ‘oxygen depletion’, WA ice sheet collapse, ice-free Arctic and on and on. All hyper-exaggerated climate propaganda to help the fall-back if temperatures don’t play ball. Climate crisis my eye.

    • dennisambler permalink
      September 7, 2016 8:49 am

      But it demonstrates a belief in recycling, all the things you mention are repeated in rotation, or brought on as subs.

  6. September 6, 2016 8:27 pm

    What would on-the-spot reef tour operators know compared to a BBC reporter? Quite a bit we might imagine.

  7. September 6, 2016 9:06 pm

    Just a couple points to add. Coral bleaching was exhibit A in the recent letter by Australian scientists to their PM. And it was El Niño what did it, the damage peaked in April, and the reef recovered by August. The resilience is important and ignored.

  8. Oliver K. Manuel permalink
    September 6, 2016 9:10 pm

    The global climate scandal has helped expose those who sevretly controlled information:

    • Oliver K. Manuel permalink
      September 6, 2016 10:17 pm

      They have tried to hide reality from humanity.

  9. tom0mason permalink
    September 6, 2016 9:45 pm

    These so called scientist have not a clue.
    How can they know all of this is not perfectly natural?
    Maybe just before the last LIA the corals expelled symbiotic micro organisms that are good in warm water, and there was a great bleaching. Then readying themselves for the cold climate to come, they take-up more cold tolerant varieties of symbiotic micro organisms.

    Who can say that is not what is happening?
    As far as I see it, nobody has tested those corals that miraculously revived bleaching, to see if the symbiotic micro organisms are different from the ones previously expelled.

    Science what science.
    Little knowledge mixed with huge volumes of supposition!

  10. tom0mason permalink
    September 6, 2016 10:37 pm

    Slightly off topic…

    While we are on the subject of the sea, I notice that the government has formulated a law to ban plastic micro-beads from cosmetics. Part of the reason given was the plastic pollutes the sea putting these beads into the food chain.

    I wonder if this claim was made on the back of the conclusions (without data) in this research paper —

  11. John permalink
    September 7, 2016 1:52 am

    As someone who lives in Cairns, I’ve been witnessing the destructive “debate” about the GBR’s “death” on my TV, in the local paper and on local radio stations. Cairns relies almost entirely on its tourist industry and I’d estimate that +90% of tourists who visit here come to see the GBR. The number of large reef tourism boats moored at the Cairns wharf is quite amazing. Local tourism organisations and operators have very extremely worried, and rightfully so, about the totally unfounded claims made by the “GBR is Dead” alarmists. These people are not scientists at all but rather climate activists, as we all know. And they are hell bent on pushing their cause regardless of the economic destruction they might cause. James Cook University once had the premier marine science faculty in the world, but with few exceptions, there is no science done at JCU any more.

    Last week Australia’s most pre-eminent geologist and a major anti-alarmist proponent , Professor Ian Plimer, was in Cairns to give an address entitled “The Great Barrier Reef – What’s So Special?” to the local branch of the Mining Institute. Apparently many non-mining people attended, sadly I couldn’t attend. The local paper covered his prospective lecture in a brief article on the day that he arrived in Cairns but there was ZERO coverage of his lecture in the next day’s paper, despite the obvious interest his lecture caused. Typical. I have a PDF copy of his presentation. If anyone wants a copy drop me an email I’ll send it to you. It is a highly geologically technical paper but well worth reading and trying to understand.

    • September 7, 2016 11:46 am

      In August 1969, I was in a wedding of my Australian friend Barbara. While I was in Adelaide doing wedding preparation stuff, my parents went from Cairns to the Great Barrier Reef. What a nice set of daddy’s slides I have. They flew to Alice Springs, climbed Ayer’s Rock and took the train(s) down to Adelaide. Barbara and her late husband farmed in Moree. Now she lives in Brisbane.

      • John permalink
        September 7, 2016 12:48 pm

        A wonderful memory Joan. A constant in this memory is the GBR. Climbing Ayre’s Rock isn’t possibly any more because with our PC world it no longer exists. and I suspect farming at Moree is now doing it tough because the water no longer gets there because of a huge cotton farm upstream in Queensland called Cubby Station which has enormous water storage. Owned now by a Chinese company from memory.

  12. Karen Walker permalink
    September 7, 2016 5:10 am

    Wasn’t there a report a few years ago about the miraculous recovery of the reefs of Bikini Atoll – the area where all the nuclear bomb testing took place in the 40’s and 50’s? You would think that if the reefs are resilient enough to survive atomic bombs they can likely survive an occasional el nino.

    • CheshireRed permalink
      September 7, 2016 10:23 am

      I dived Bikini Atoll around 2005 to see the post-Operation Crossroads wrecks, USS Saratoga and Japan’s Nagato being the highlights. There was no talk whatsoever of reefs being impacted by ‘global warming’, ‘climate change’, ‘ocean acidification’ or ‘coral bleaching’. The coconuts were off the menu, mind.

  13. September 7, 2016 8:09 am

    The BBC has moved on to its other favourite scare story, the Arctic. The excuse is the old one of ‘study suggests…’ blah blah.

    ‘Shipping routes across the Arctic are going to open up significantly this century even with a best-case reduction in CO2 emissions, a new study suggests’

    Studying what? Climate models. The ones that already forecast way more warming than is observed in reality. This is what passes for climate science today.

    • dave permalink
      September 7, 2016 1:02 pm

      “,,,shipping routes…”

      In 1972, a well-known “Arctic specialist” scientist predicted that the Arctic Ocean would be 20 F warmer by 2000, and it would be a great opportunity for Canada. This was based on a theory of regional warming, as the CAGW scam had yet to be invented.

      It caused quite a flurry of interest in business circles in Toronto. All forgotten now, of course, – except by me.

  14. September 17, 2016 3:57 pm

    The progs main blurb :
    “Can Coral Reefs Survive? The Inquiry
    Over the past eight months almost a quarter of the Great Barrier Reef has died – according to some estimates – because of coral bleaching, which can happen when sea temperatures rise”
    So BBC listeners will go to the reef expecting to see it dead, only to find it’s 99% OK except for bits where some Chinese tourist have walked on it or there’s been a bit of agricultural far as I understand.
    There is REAL world and media world.
    ..I’ve seen myself places which we KNOW from the media are just so completely different when you are there and use your own eyes.

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