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The aquarium: coral bleaching off the coast of Vava’u

Recently two USC students, Kate Whitaker and Georgia McGregor, participated in an exploration of community and tourist beliefs and behaviours, and their contributions to the regions’ cultural and environmental preservation in Vava’u, the Kingdom of Tonga. Here, Kate shares her experience and stories from their time abroad. Next week, Georgia will share her thoughts. 


Nestled deep in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of the Kingdom of Tonga lays an aquatic playground. Vibrant coloured coral forms a picturesque underwater landscape. Fish dart in and out, turtles feed on an abundance of sea grass, and manta rays slowly glide above us forming mere silhouettes against the light of the surface. As our guide so delightfully informed us, this was ‘the aquarium’, and these were the kinds of things we expected to see.   

However, they do say expectation is the root of all heartache, but on arrival there was no denying that climate change had taken the life of yet another victim. This coral forest had undergone a serious case of bleaching, and in fact, it was more replicating a coral graveyard than the likes of an aquarium. Sadly, vibrant colours are being replaced for lifeless shades of brown throughout the world’s oceans as sea temperatures continue to warm.  It is estimated that 93 per cent of extra heat generated by climate change has, and will continue to be absorbed by the ocean, causing dramatic shifts in ocean temperature. So I ask you this – when is enough, enough? And when will ‘too late’ be standing right in front of us? Will it be time to do something when our own Great Barrier Reef completely disappears? When fish life vanish because their important spawning and feeding grounds are eroded?  Or when there is simply nothing left for our children and future generations to see? I urge you to do something today, because ‘one day’ will come suddenly, and we won’t be able to recreate what Mother Nature so kindly blessed us with.

For ten easy steps on how YOU can make a difference to the life of coral, follow the link below, and please remember that your individual actions contribute to collective power that has the potential to make big changes.

https://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/urgentissues/oceans/coral-reefs/ways-to-help-coral-reefs/index.htm

Above: Photo credit: Emily Gregory; Photo location: Vava’u island group, South Pacific Ocean

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