Damage to the Great Barrier Reef in the wake of Cyclone Debbie has prompted a Queensland bishop to renew a call for greater environmental protection, The Catholic Leader reports.
“Speaking as a former industrial chemist, I note that there has been tremendous damage done to the reef by the run-off of waters and untreated effluent contained by our industries,” Rockhampton Bishop Michael McCarthy said.
Bishop McCarthy has spoken out after many reefs off the north Queensland coast were pummelled and broken by extreme weather. Scientists raised further environmental concerns with fresh run-off pollution from torrential rains sweeping into Great Barrier Reef waters.
“This is where we could be directing our resources to ensure that our environment is preserved for the future and for our planet’s long-term viability,” Bishop McCarthy said.
“The waste water and untreated effluent from our cities and industries does cause incredible damage to ecosystems of our reefs and lands, and can be addressed by careful management and planning.”
Scientific aerial photos taken three days after Cyclone Debbie hit, hint at the scale of damage in the erosion-prone Burdekin catchment, and show flood plumes from the Burdekin, Fitzroy and Gregory rivers pushing sediment and nitrogen pollution out to sea.
To add to the woes of the reef, scientists last month warned that coral bleaching for two consecutive years was causing massive coral loss.
In 2004, the Catholic bishops of Queensland released a pastoral letter about the Great Barrier Reef, which Bishop McCarthy said was “still timely”. The letter, Let the Many Coastlands Be Glad, emphasised the shared ecological responsibility for the Great Barrier Reef and the need for action to ensure its survival.
The key issues of harm were identified as global warming, sediment run-off from land, sewage outflow, deteriorating water quality and over-fishing. The reef was described in the letter as “a sublime gift and blessing from God”.
“Care for the environment and a keener ecological awareness have become key moral issues for the Christian conscience,” the letter said.
Rockhampton bishop speaks out after coral reef pummelled by Cyclone Debbie (The Catholic Leader)