Science, tourism reap Great Barrier Reef recovery

An underwater brigade of ecologists, biologists and tourism operators donned their neoprene “uniforms” and united off the coast of Cairns to check the results of a four-year Coral Nurture Program that aims to protect high-value Great Barrier Reef sites against future extreme weather events.

Coral Nurture Program relies on staff from reef tourism boats who tend to coral nurseries while tourists enjoy the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef nearby

Funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the programme is a joint partnership between University of Technology Sydney (UTS) scientists and the Port Douglas-based Wavelength Reef Cruises.

Lead UTS researcher and coral scientist, David Suggett, said the Coral Nurture Program was “an unprecedented success”.

Two years of “great growing conditions” have enabled recovering reef sites.

He added: “The collective action of operators planting tens of thousands of corals means we can now start to understand how, when and why coral replanting is successful. That is now feeding forward to new stewardship-based management for the Great Barrier Reef.”

Under the management of scientists, staff from reef tourism boats maximise their reef visits and tend to coral nurseries while tourists enjoy the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef nearby. They utilise a specially designed Coralclip device to attach corals to the reef without the need for chemical bonding agents. The Coralclip method is faster and cheaper than traditional out-planting methods and has contributed to high survival rates.

The Program has delivered coral restoration at a scale never seen before on the Great Barrier Reef, with more than 70,000 coral fragments planted across 27 sites and an average 85 per cent survival rate. Almost 50,000 of these fragments were planted by the crew from Wavelength Reef Cruises.

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