Murder on the Reef (2018, SHORT)
Murder on the Reef follows the hotly debated issues surrounding the world’s largest living structure, the Great Barrier Reef. But is it too late? Many scientists now believe as much as fifty percent of the corals in the Great Barrier Reef have died. Through a complex mix of voices from locals, to scientists and indigenous spokespeople, this documentary traces the many culprits including water contamination, crown-of-thorns starfish and dredging. But the elephant in the room is climate change and some of the exhausted scientists believe the fight is futile.
In 2016 a massive bleaching event rendered much of the coral in the Northern end of the Great Barrier Reef lifeless and colourless but no-one predicted another event would occur the following year. This back to back bleaching was unprecedented and took everyone by surprise including scientists, who had studied these events for many years. While a classroom full of university students wept watching aerials of the devastation, in Canberra, politicians supported by big coal continued their assault on the science.
Australia is the largest exporter of coal which is the largest contributor to emissions and one of the biggest financial contributors to political parties. Banks have stopped funding coal mines in Australia. But the government continue to support these ventures going so far as to brandish a lump of coal on the lower house floor imploring colleagues to see its virtues. “Don’t be afraid of coal” one yells. This is mild compared to the mudslinging that has become commonplace in a parliament more divided and dirtier than ever before. Meanwhile, once vibrant corals are turning white, and the reef is becoming an indicator for what will happen globally.
Nicole McCuaigWriterThe Secret Life of Dugongs, Art Without Borders, Coming Home: Australia's RSL, etc.
Alex FitzwaterProducerUnleashed, Coffe Culture, Australian Idol, etc
Alex FitzwaterEditorsUnleashed, Coffee Culture, Australian Idol, etc.
Kieran HarrisVideographyTaio Cruz: My Life on Film, Blind Faith, etc
Project Type:Documentary, Television
Genres:Documentary, Adventure, Man vs Nature
Runtime:29 minutes 35 seconds
Completion Date:February 28, 2018
Production Budget:190,000 USD
Country of Origin:Australia
Country of Filming:Australia, Germany
The Hollywood Boulevard Film FestivalLos Angeles
May 19, 2018
Best Documentary Film
Near Nazareth FestivalAfula
June 4, 2018
Best in Documentary
International Ecological Film Festival Save and PreserveKhanty-Mansiysk
June 6, 2018
Move Me Productions
I started my scientific career with a PhD research of the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. In 1997 I established a consulting firm and received my environmental laboratory accreditation by the National Association of Testing Authorities in 2003.
I’ve been always fascinated by the unique natural beauty of the Australian environment, particularly, by the Great Barrier Reef. As a conscientious scientist, I’ve been following the developments around the environmental issues of the proposed and approved sediment dredging operations in the vicinity of the reefs.
Since 2014 I’ve been conducting my own monitoring program at the Great Barrier Reef in order to evaluate the changes in the water quality at the reef.
Soon after a team of independent videographers joined my expeditions. We had an opportunity to interview top coral and marine research scientists, along with locals, activists, politicians and indigenous leaders, who were all concerned about the poor outlook for the reef due to the multiple port developments along the reef that are contributing to its poor health.
In February 2017, I established a film production branch, AESA Films, within my main environmental consulting firm in order to complete a documentary about the environmental and political issues at the reef.
Primary issues represented in the film
The story in the film deals with the degradation in the water quality of the Great Barrier Reef, which is in part due to poor funding of environmental protection, poor implementation of legislation, large-scale development & sediment dredging along the coast and land runoff.
The main voices come from the top coral and marine research scientists in Australia, along with locals, activists, politicians and indigenous leaders, who are all concerned about the poor outlook for the reef due to the multiple port developments along the reef that are contributing to its poor health.
Our story focuses on the fight that has been happening on land around governance of the reef's health.
An example of a collapse of governance is the Gladstone port expansion project, which ended up with an environmental disaster, when the bund wall containing dredge spoils failed, contaminating the Gladstone harbor in 2011. Subsequently to the disaster, local fishermen reported an unprecedented number of dead fish, dugongs, turtles and dolphins.
Importance of the topic
The topic of the film is important because the Great Barrier Reef is a unique natural structure on the planet and has the World Heritage Status. By unveiling the recent history of the bad management of the sediment dredging project in the Gladstone harbor, we are trying to ‘wake up’ the general public and think what may happen, if this disaster will be repeated again. However, this time it will be on a much larger scale, as the port expansion projects have been approved for much larger volumes of sediment dredging in other major ports along the reef. Therefore, the environmental risks of an irreversible disaster at the Great Barrier Reef are much higher.
The latest health check of the reef shows the overall outlook is “poor”, and getting worse. According to the Outlook Report produced by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, climate change is still the greatest threat to the reef. Other threats include land runoff and sediment dredging.
Despite the fact that the leading Australian scientists warn that the reef is in ‘grave danger’ and highlight the need for better protection of the Great Barrier Reef, yet the budget for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has been wound back.
In the film conclusion, we determine that higher level of awareness and close cooperation between the government and marine research scientists, activists, politicians and indigenous leaders is urgently needed to save the world's biggest natural wonder.
Personal reasons for creating the film
As a geochemist, I have conducted a large number of contamination investigations in Australia and overseas.
My PhD research on the impacts of the Chernobyl disaster allows me to assess environmental risks and draw parallels between large scale environmental disasters around the world. Pushing the nuclear reactor’s capabilities to its limits led to the ‘man-made’ Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Thousands of square miles of pristine environment around the Chernobyl nuclear power station became a wasteland. Greenpeace estimated that the number of animal deaths related to the accident was 93,000.
A bad environmental management led to the environmental disaster in one of the Great Barrier Reef’s port of Gladstone in 2011. The bund wall containing dredge spoils failed, which led to the contamination of the port’s harbor. Satellite images showed plumes of turbidity extend as far as 35km from the main dredging site. Hundreds of dead turtles, dugongs and dolphins were reported, as a result of the disaster.
I have an obligation to the Australian public and to the environmentally conscious people around the world to expose existing environmental risks of the recently approved port expansion projects along the shores of the greatest natural wonder of the world.