World-first Coral Nurture Program expands to the Whitsundays
Scientists and tourism operators join mission to restore Whitsundays coral
A world-first research and tourism partnership pioneered in the northern Great Barrier Reef has launched in the Whitsundays to help local reefs recover and develop long-term Reef stewardship.
Researchers from the University of Technology Sydney and local tourism operators have successfully completed the Coral Nurture Program’s first mission to establish new coral nurseries, planting more than 1600 healthy corals at three Whitsunday locations.
Through the Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s Reef Islands Initiative, the Whitsundays Coral Nurture Program brings the unique Coralclip® technology to three new sites in the region – an innovative device that allows corals to be planted around 10 times faster than before.
Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director Anna Marsden said the Whitsunday project builds on the success of the Coral Nurture Program pioneered in the Cairns-Port Douglas region by tourism operators and the University of Technology Sydney.
“Launching the Coral Nurture Program in the Whitsundays aims to assist the recovery of three ecologically and economically important reefs, while also creating a lasting legacy through tourism operators and the local community,” Ms Marsden said.
“Bringing together science and tourism is key to this project’s success.
“By combining the knowledge of our marine science experts with the experience and resources of the tourism operators who are out on the Reef every day, we can accelerate the natural recovery of local reefs at a greater scale and faster than we’ve seen before.
“Incorporating the unique Coralclip® technology – a Queensland invention – is a game-changer for coral restoration at this local level because it offers a fast and cost-effective solution to out-planting corals at larger scales.
“The first Coral Nurture Program has achieved outstanding results in north Queensland with over 75,000 corals planted to date, so we’re excited to adapt the program to start up in the Whitsundays to help boost coral recovery, especially following the impacts of Cyclone Debbie in 2017.
“While taking urgent action on reducing emissions is essential, this is one of the ways we’re helping our Great Barrier Reef recover by lending a hand to rehabilitate reefs damaged by the effects of climate change.”
The Whitsundays’ Coral Nurture Program launch saw the research and tourism teams establish three coral nursery sites and plant more than 1600 corals, including using the Coralclip® to reattach broken yet healthy coral fragments to help boost the Reef’s natural recovery process.
University of Technology Sydney lead researcher Professor David Suggett and Coralclip® inventor, Wavelength tourism operator John Edmondson, travelled to the Whitsundays to train local tourism operators in the Program’s technique.
“We worked with three Whitsunday tourism operators – Red Cat Adventures, Kiana Sail and Dive, and Ocean Rafting – to showcase how our innovative approach works and provide the skills to take the lead in rebuilding coral reefs at the sites they frequently visit,” Professor Suggett said.
“The beauty of the Coral Nurture Program is that it’s community-led and science-backed.
“The tourism operators are the stewards on the front line working to grow and plant the corals and then check back in regularly to make sure they’re healthy.
“As researchers, we independently and scientifically validate this work to ensure that all the efforts are having a positive and meaningful impact.
“This research-tourism partnership model is a world-leader in ensuring reef community efforts are not just about replanting coral, but using innovative science to make the informed decisions needed to give the Reef a helping hand to recover from the impacts of climate change.
“This program is transforming how the tourism industry can actively steward reef sites and we look forward to monitoring the progress in the Whitsundays and continuing to grow and expand the nursery sites to nurture a more resilient Great Barrier Reef.”
Tourism operators will head back to the coral nurseries in November to check and report on progress.
The Coral Nurture Program Whitsundays is part of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s Reef Islands Initiative, the largest reef habitat rehabilitation project of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. The Initiative is supported by funding from Lendlease, the Australian Government’s Reef Trust, the Queensland Government and the Fitzgerald Family Foundation.