Environment Department shrouds UNESCO mission to Reef in secrecy, keeps agenda under tight control

BRISBANE, March 22 2022 - With the Great Barrier Reef undergoing a severe and widespread coral bleaching event it is vital that a UN mission currently in Australia to survey the Reef’s health is allowed to see the climate damage to the Reef firsthand, Greenpeace Australia Pacific says.

A UNESCO reactive monitoring mission is currently in Queensland to survey the health of the Reef and their observations will influence the decision around whether the Great Barrier Reef will be added to the list of World Heritage Sites “in danger” when the Committee meets in June.

“As we speak, Great Barrier Reef corals are bleaching for the fourth time in six years, these are clear signs of an ecosystem in danger because of climate change,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific Climate Impacts Campaigner Martin Zavan.

“The UNESCO mission to the Reef needs to see the severe and widespread bleaching event that is happening right now because of climate change and not just the postcard images that the Australian Government wants to advertise. Because the government has prevented independent scientists and environmental charities like Greenpeace and local Queensland groups from meeting with the mission, it is vital that they witness the reality of climate damage on our precious but fragile Reef.”

University of Queensland coral reef biologist, Dr Selina Ward said the outlook for the Great Barrier Reef has become more grim with yet another bleaching event.

“With just two years since the last mass coral bleaching event, reefs will again not have had the chance to make a good start towards recovery,” she said. 

“This is the first big bleaching event in a La Niña year, which we would expect to protect our reef from bleaching. 

“Only a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions right now will give the Great Barrier Reef the best chance of survival. Our governments need to move away from fossil fuels immediately if we hope to enjoy the Reef into the future.” 

Whitsundays dive operator and conservationist Tony Fontes said the secrecy around this latest monitoring mission is completely at odds with the open and transparent way the previous mission operated.

“When UNESCO came to survey the health of the Reef in 2012, I was able to meet with them, along with a host of other civil society organisations and independent scientists. This time we have been deliberately excluded and I’m concerned that the government will try and mislead the mission about the true state of the Reef by only taking them to picture-perfect locations that don’t accurately represent the climate damage the entire ecosystem is under.” he said.

“The voices of communities that depend on the Reef and tourism operators like myself need to be heard. Our livelihoods depend on a healthy Reef and we want the government to do everything in its power to help protect our Reef from the impacts of climate change by rapidly transitioning from coal and gas to clean energy like wind and solar.” 



Download videos and photos of Greenpeace’s rally and direct communication to the UNESCO mission here. All content will be live by 1pm (AEDT).

Additional Great Barrier Reef photo and video can be found here: SOS Protect the Reef photo and video


Greenpeace Australia Pacific Climate Impacts Campaigner, Martin Zavan

+61 424 295 422

[email protected]