Great Barrier Reef campaign manager for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Dr Lissa Schindler, said coral bleaching is a major concern for voters and the survey results should have been released in April.
“It is deeply concerning that caretaker mode is being used as an excuse for not releasing this vital information about the health of our global treasure,” she said.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society sought legal opinion on the Department’s advice for AIMS not to release the survey results.
The Environmental Defenders Office, who gave the advice, said the Guidance on Caretaker Conventions “does not show that there is any impediment to the release of the Reef Summer Snapshot 2021-22 by the authoring agencies, given the Snapshot report appears to relate to existing programs and to contain only factual content”.
A spokesperson for PM&C said while it provides agencies with general advice, “each agency head is ultimately responsible for the operations of their agency during the caretaker period”.
While AIMS and GBRMPA have been tasked with publishing the latest aerial survey, Professor Terry Hughes, the founding director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, conducted aerial surveys during the past four mass bleaching events before he retired.
He said last week that he had released the results within two weeks of completion of the flights and it was “disappointing” the survey results had not yet been published.
University of Queensland senior lecturer Dr Selina Ward said the delay in publishing the survey results was “appalling”.
“How can we think it’s not political interference when all the other results came out in a timely fashion?”