REEF HEALTH: Mike Middleton's favourite island, North Reef Island.
REEF HEALTH: Mike Middleton's favourite island, North Reef Island. Mike Middleton

Environmental awareness eyes on our Great Barrier Reef

ENVIRONMENTAL champion and multimedia specialist, Mike Middleton, spends every spare private moment he can trying to improve Australia's understanding of the challenges the Great Barrier Reef faces.

Describing the 62-year-old Queenslander as passionate is an understatement. The ex-Sydney man, since his youth, has been deeply fascinated by islands - what's on them and what's around theirs shores - and about their environmental wellbeing. "I also have a passion for the reef and concerns for the environment because of climate change and pollution by plastic,” Mike said.

Mike spends about seven months each year travelling around the reef, talking to the boaties, observing their actions and impacts, recording the changes. "I gather the information by talking to people directly and by visiting other boats at anchorages, and meeting people on the island at things like sundowners or while diving,” Mike said.

His role as the recreational reef users representative on the Burnett Local Marine Advisory Committee, which advises the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on local marine park management issues, gives him the voice he needs to use his networking skills to connect the users and the overseers. He shares what the users need and think to the Authority and shares back to the users what they need to know.

Mike also recently released his latest pictorial book, The Keppel Isles, records the indigenous and European history, and stunning beauty of the island group located in the southern part of the reef.

He is working on his next pictorial book which will be about the Great Southern Barrier Reef. "There is a massive un-told history of the Bunker Group, south of Cape Capricorn,” Mike said.

Take only what you need

Mike has learnt that recreational fishermen are doing the most damage, almost 55 per cent, to the reef. "They are not being compliant with the amount of fish they take and the size limits, and fishing in green zones,” he adds.

"For example, the Swains Reef has been over-fished for the last 25 years and as a result, it has the biggest outbreak of the Crown of Thorns. The predatorial fish that eat the larvae have been decimated so we have this outbreak because there is no balance of nature or control.

"There is a huge ignorance on the reef. Fisherman just want to fill their eskies and go home.”

While not one environmental change issue is the main cause of the reef damage, "it's a combination of all”, Mike admits. "But, filling your esky and tinnie when you are a senior, for example, is pretty un-cool because you are taking the breeding stock away.

"Just take what you can eat,” Mike asks of all us.

Talk to the other generation

Chatting to the younger generations around you - to your children and grand-children - about what they can do to reduce their impact on the reef is another idea Mike has for seniors to lend a hand to the future.

Sharing ideas on how to stop using plastic in our everyday life is another way to help. He also suggests you talk to them about which politician is going to really do something about climate change, and then vote for them.

If you are out fishing and see something that doesn't look right, or you see something that is doing damage to the reef, Mike says you can report it through two mobile phone apps - Eyes on the Reef and Queensland Recreational Fishing Guide.

"As a senior, do the best you can to minimise the impact for the young ones coming through,” Mike asks of all of us.


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