Low Isles is 2 small islands, situated in The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, about 15 kilometers from Port Douglas. The smaller of the two islands (low island) is a sand cay with a light house on it. The larger island (woody island) is a mangrove island and a sanctuary for Torres Strait Pigeons, who migrate here to nest from Papua New Guinea.
Low Island allows a limited number of visitors ashore each day. These visitors can visit the lighthouse, learn about the history of the island and sunbathe on the broken coral sand. However, it is the snorkeling on the reef which brings most of the tourists to Low Isles.
As I posted a couple of weeks ago, sea temperatures have risen to 30 degrees on this section of The Great Barrier Reef. My previous post was documenting the conditions at the outer reef. (50km from shore), so I was curious to see if there was any difference at an inner reef location.
Inner reef locations do not get any of the colder water brought up from the deeper waters off the continental shelf, therefore when the water warms up it can take longer to cool down again. This of course can be catastrophic for corals and the reef surrounding Low Isles was badly damaged during the 2016/2017 bleaching events.
How is the reef today?
Upon putting my face in the water, I immediately saw that I was surrounded by a school of fusiliers. They quickly moved to reveal three juvenile black tip reef sharks. These sharks were practicing their hunting skills, without much success.
It is great to see these sharks here because they are at the top of the food chain, meaning if the environment is not good, they are the first to leave.
As I started to swim out over the reef flat, I could see that there are still big areas which have not recovered from the 2016/2017 bleaching. There are definitely new corals starting to grow, however some of these were showing signs of bleaching. It was mainly the leather and finger corals which seemed to be struggling. I only saw one boulder coral under stress.
Once over the reef flat and into the deeper water there was less evidence of bleaching and a lot more fish life. I even saw a turtle and a full-sized reef shark.
All of the photos in this blog were taken on the 28th of February. I have not edited or enhanced any of these photos. They are exactly how it was. You can see that there is a mixture of healthy corals and corals under stress.
The inner reef areas do seem to be more susceptible to bleaching, however it is only a couple of the species which are showing signs of stress. It may be that in the future these species will only survive at the outer reef, leaving the inner reefs with a smaller diversity of corals. But the point is that there is a good chance that some corals will survive at these inner reef locations, and there will still be a reef there. It may look a little different to what we have seen there in the past, but it will still be there.
Please also check out my other blogs on “Is The Great Barrier Reef Dead?”
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