CANBERRA -- Just days after One Nation defied science and declared the Great Barrier Reef is "not dying at all" with Leader Pauline Hanson handling coral without a permit, science has recorded a record coral die-off on the world heritage site.
Researchers from James Cook University estimate two-thirds of coral coverage has died in a major coral bleaching event along a 700-kilometre stretch of reef off far north Queensland, north of Port Douglas, however it's noted that some southern coral areas have shown "remarkable improvement".
The scientist blames warming ocean temperatures for the bleaching and in the worst affected area, they report a 700 kilometres northern swath of reefs which has lost an average of 67 percent of its shallow-water corals in the past 8-9 months.
In highlighting the seriousness of his findings, the report's author Professor Terry Hughes has pre-empted criticism from climate sceptics, in particular One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts.
Ahem, the mortality map was produced in collaboration with two Commonwealth Agencies https://t.co/lkwjmx3LKD
— Terry Hughes (@ProfTerryHughes) November 28, 2016
The report did record minor damage in the southern two-thirds of the Reef and in the Reef's northern offshore corner, the later believed to be due to an upwelling of cooler waters from the Coral Sea.
It is in one of these improved southern tourist areas, near Great Keppel Island, that Hanson visited late last week in an effort to prove environmentalists were spreading misinformation about the state of the reef's health.
In a well-publicised snorkel trip with her fellow One Nation Senators Malcolm Roberts and Brian Burston, Hanson took aim at Greens "who are telling tourists that the reef is dying".
"LET ME BE THE FIRST TO ASSURE YOU, THE GREAT BARRIER REEF IS ALIVE AND WELL! ESPECIALLY AROUND GREAT KEPPEL ISLAND," Hanson declared in ALL-CAPS on Facebook.
Hanson was around 1000 kilometres from the bleaching, and taking the media to a healthy part of the Reef was all part of One Nation's plans.
But it appears physically handling the healthy coral may bring the Senator undone.
Reef officials from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority are investigating Hanson for handling coral without a permit.
The Minister for Northern Australia Matt Canavan has told HuffPost Australia he would be inclined to give the One Nation Leader a "pass".
"I don't think she should be drawn, hung and executed for touching a piece of coral," he said.
"I am happy to let that pass. It's not going to cause the death of the entire reef.
"It is great to see people up there. I wish more politicians would come up there and see it for themselves because they would realise it is fantastic. There is a lot to see."