U.S. climate change campaigner dies snorkeling at Great Barrier Reef

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Australian Government Pledges to Protect Great Barrier Reef

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Award-winning American environmental photographer Gary Braasch died on Monday while snorkeling at the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef.

Braasch, 70, from Portland, Oregon, was snorkeling with a companion at the Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research Station, the museum said in a statement. He was documenting the effect of climate change on the reef.

The cause of death was not immediately clear. Queensland police had been notified and were investigating, the museum added.

A Nikon "Legend Behind the Lens" photographer, Braasch was an active climate change campaigner and had received many major awards and citations for his work.

The Great Barrier Reef, a World Heritage Site, is the world's largest living ecosystem, with thousands of multi-colored coral reefs stretching over 2,000 km (1,200 miles) off the northeast coast of Australia.

Parts of the reef face permanent destruction if the current El Nino, one of the strongest weather patterns in two decades, does not ease this month, scientists say.

See more from the Great Barrier Reef that Braasch was working to protect:

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U.S. climate change campaigner dies snorkeling at Great Barrier Reef
A photo taken on September 22, 2014, shows fish swimming through the coral on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The 2,300-kilometre-long reef contributes AUS$5.4 billion (US$4.8 billion) annually to the Australian economy through tourism, fishing, and scientific research, while supporting 67,000 jobs, according to government data. According to an Australian government report in August, the outlook for the Earth's largest living structure is 'poor', with climate change posing the most serious threat to the extensive coral reef ecosystem. AFP PHOTO/William WEST (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)
A photo taken on September 22, 2014, shows fish swimming through the coral on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The 2,300-kilometre-long reef contributes AUS$5.4 billion (US$4.8 billion) annually to the Australian economy through tourism, fishing, and scientific research, while supporting 67,000 jobs, according to government data. According to an Australian government report in August, the outlook for the Earth's largest living structure is 'poor', with climate change posing the most serious threat to the extensive coral reef ecosystem. AFP PHOTO/William WEST (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)
A photo taken on September 22, 2014, shows a turtle on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The 2,300-kilometre-long reef contributes AUS$5.4 billion (US$4.8 billion) annually to the Australian economy through tourism, fishing, and scientific research, while supporting 67,000 jobs, according to government data. According to an Australian government report in August, the outlook for the Earth's largest living structure is 'poor', with climate change posing the most serious threat to the extensive coral reef ecosystem. AFP PHOTO/William WEST (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)
Great Barrier Reef - Aerial View - Whitsundays, Queensland, Australia
School of Surgeon fish on Great Barrier Reef Australia
Upolu Cay Island in the Coral Sea Great Barrier Reef
An aerial view of the islands of the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia
Aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef
World Heritage Site,Oceania,Aerial view
World Heritage Site,Oceania,Aerial view
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