Words by by Ella Liascos. Ella is a sustainability writer and the founder of Sun Juju, a plastic free, reef safe SPF50 that rubs on clear and donates 5% of profits to The Climate Foundation’s Marine Permaculture Project. To coincide with the launch of our Seljak Lune blanket – which was inspired by the beauty and fragility of the Great Barrier Reef – Ella contributed this piece for Seljak Brand’s blog.
For the first time ever, reef bleaching has hit all three regions of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s the most widespread bleaching event on record and the third severe event in the last five years.
Stretching 2,253 kilometres, all corals within that span have been severely affected, according to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and James Cook University in Australia.
“Severe bleaching has struck all three regions of the Great Barrier Reef – the northern, central and now large parts of the southern sectors,” said Professor Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at the university.
Unlike past years, this bleaching event has been caused solely by a summer of extreme heat. In the past, the culprit was the El Niños weather patterns caused by the warming of the Pacific Ocean near the Equator.
“Hearing that the southern reef has been bleached this year is devastating,” says Sam Seljak, co-founder of Seljak Brand. “After seeing the beauty of Lady Elliot, we understand the fragility of the reef and how much life relies on it. So many symbiotic relationships exist among the reef, and it's something we all need to remain active in preserving” Sam says.
In an ode to the colourful underwater landscapes, sisters Sam and Karina Seljak recently designed a blanket, inspired by their diving trip to Lady Elliot Island last year. The island is the southernmost coral caye of the Great Barrier Reef, 85km north-east of Bundaberg.
Karina and Sam Seljak at Lady Elliot Island
Launching the new design this week, Karina says the artwork was inspired by the interconnectedness, vulnerability and power of life. “There’s a lagoon at Lady Elliot Island that fills with water at high tide, and empties at low tide, exposing the coral otherwise underneath the water. Then at night, the stars and moon come out and are absolutely incredible.”
Lune Artist Statement:
Lune is inspired by the tides and skies of the Great Barrier Reef. Just below the surface of the water is an explosion of life that relies on a precise inhale and exhale of the ocean. On the reef, the ever present sun and moon are a reminder we are at mercy to their power, and the fragility of life cycles are both within and beyond our control.
The Seljak Lune front and back
“Luckily Lady Elliot has not seen a lot of bleaching – perhaps because it’s so far out into the ocean.” But after experiencing the magic of the region herself, Sam feels it shows that no part of the reef is safe from the drastic effects of climate change.
Heating oceans and rising tides aren’t the sole threats to our precious reefs. The 8 million tonnes of plastic that enters the ocean annually can snag on coral and block sunlight required for photosynthesis, as well as break down into micro-plastics that are ingested by coral.
Birdseye view of the South East Queensland coastline
Other major threats include overfishing, which disturbs the ecosystem and reduces the number of small fish that help clean and regulate reefs, and sedimentation from urban stormwater runoff, and agriculture and coastal development, which disturbs the corals ability to feed, grow and reproduce.
How we can help:
The biggest threat to our reefs is global warming, which leads to coral bleaching. So the best way to protect them is by reducing our carbon footprint. We can do this a number of ways:
- Spend time by the ocean if you can. Regaining our connection and appreciation to the sea is the fuel that will drive our desire to protect it. As David Attenborough famously said, “No one will protect what they don't care about, and no one will care about what they have never experienced.”
- Walk ride, or take the bus to reduce emissions that lead to temperature induced reef bleaching.
- Avoid using single-use plastic and partake in ocean cleanups.
- Reducing meat consumption, since livestock for human consumption is the single largest driver of climate change and water pollution worldwide.