Corals took centre stage last night at a private screening of Sir David Attenborough’s new three-part series ‘The Great Barrier Reef’’.
Delegates, scientists and ocean conservationists gathered in the packed halls of La Maison Des Oceans to catch the first glimpse of this incredibly cutting-edge documentary.
Among the distinguished guests were Ocean Elders Sylvia Earle and Sir Richard Branson, who shared support not only for better coral reef protection, but the value of safe guarding this blue planet as well.
A panel discussion prior to the screening was chaired by Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and also included WWF’s Director General Marco Lambertini. All speakers joined in a collective call for COP21 negations to recognize the economic and ecologic value of the ocean.
Sir David Attenborough’s unfaltering admiration for The Great Barrier Reef began in 1957 on his first ever scuba dive. Weightlessly floating amongst the world’s largest coral reef system made a lasting impression on Sir Attenborough; one he continuously reminisces about with child-like fascination.
In this series, we see Sir Attenborough test another state-of-the-art technology, as he joins a two-man team in a Triton submarine. While slightly more comfortable, this vessels allows him to catch a rare deep-sea view of the coral reef’s beauty and the thousands of species that rely on it for survival.
With stunning footage and some of the world’s most iconic creatures, the first part of the series focuses on the structure of the corals themselves and the crucial role they play in marine ecosystems.
70% of fish species rely on coral reefs at some point in their life cycles and often travel daring distances in order to settle amongst the delicate structures. Offering protection, habitat and important breeding grounds, the Great Barrier Reef is home to more than 1,500 fish species and rivals rainforests in it’s diversity.
While the stunning imagery captivated the audience’s attention, the panellists were careful to stress the many challenges that coral reefs now face globally.
“We always assumed that the ocean was to big to fail,” remarked Sylvia Earle “But now we know that is just not true.”
The Great Barrier Reef now stands at a precipice, as rising temperatures continue to cause acidification, leaving the corals damaged and extremely vulnerable.
“The Great Barrier Reef’s upper limit of temperature for survival is 1.5 degrees Celsius.“ cautioned Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg.
With the staggering beauty of the reef as a background, Australian MP Greg Hunt closed the evening by highlighting the many initiatives his Government is leading to help ensure the reef’s survival.
As the audience filled out of the auditorium, it was clear that Sir David Attenborough’s love and fascination with The Great Barrier Reef was contagious. The hope now is that delegates are able to spread concern for this precious reef and the need for better protection of the ocean globally. As Sir Attenborough pronounced, “We just can’t afford not to.”