FACT SHEETS -
CORAL REEF IMPACTS
25 PHYSICAL DAMAGE
• There are a number of ways in which coral reefs and their ecosystems are damaged physically both by nature and humans. On the Great Barrier Reef these include: cyclone damage; swimmers, snorkelers and divers breaking or touching the coral; anchor and boat damage; and rubbish including fishing lines and rubbish from the mainland that cause damage to the coral and marine organisms that inhabit the coral reefs.
• Cyclones can cause extensive damage to coral reefs although these have happened throughout time and coral reefs, if unaffected by other impacts, often recover
• Swimmers, snorkelers, and divers can damage reefs either by touching, collecting or breaking coral and the marine organisms that live on the coral reefs.
• Boats can cause damage to reefs by anchoring on them rather than on sandy or rock patches around the reef, or by accidental grounding. On the GBR, public moorings on popular sites have sharply reduced anchor damage.
• Rubbish from visitors to the reef or from the mainland can cause damage to the reefs or the marine organisms that inhabit them. For example, turtles have been known to eat cigarette butts or plastic bags, which stick inside their intestines and can result in their death. Many creatures have become entangled in this rubbish or choke on it. Rubbish that is thrown on the ground on land will often end up in drains or waterways which eventually lead out to the open sea and to coral reefs.
• Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/corp_site/key_issues/tourism