The ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies has reported that about 67% of the corals in the northern section of the reef died in 2016 due to bleaching, a result of prolonged exposure to warm water temperatures.
Fortunately for the thousands of species living in the 1,430-mile reef, coral in the central and southern regions received significantly less damage. The central region lost 6% of its corals, while the southern region lost 1%.
But if you're planning a visit to the northern end of the reef, which aligns with the Cooktown and Cairns area of the Queensland coast, it might already be too late.
After this year’s loss of corals—the worst on record—scientists estimate that it will take 10-15 years for the northern region to recoup its losses, and that’s only if further widespread bleaching doesn’t delay recovery.
As well as housing some 600 species of coral, the Great Barrier Reef supports a $5 billion tourism industry. Every year, about two million people travel to see the world’s largest coral reef system up close.