Investment boost to the Great Barrier Reef

We’re delighted with the Australian Government’s investment boost to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s greatest natural icons.

The funding demonstrates the Government’s commitment to protecting the Great Barrier Reef in this the International Year of the Reef.

Like all coral reefs around the world, the Great Barrier Reef is under pressure from a range of threats, particularly climate change.

Over the last two years coral bleaching, a severe cyclone and crown-of-thorns starfish have affected approximately 80 per cent of the Reef.

This funding is an extremely positive outcome for the Marine Park Authority, Australia’s lead managers of the Great Barrier Reef that work with government, industries and communities.

The Marine Park Authority’s recently released Blueprint for Resilience responds to threats facing the Reef and outlines 10 key initiatives that deliver maximum benefits for Reef resilience.

The Blueprint emphasises that protecting the Great Barrier Reef in a warming world requires a management approach that embraces new tools and innovation.

This funding enables us to further progress two key initiatives to directly tackle threats that are affecting the Marine Park, an area bigger than Italy.

An expanded crown-of-thorns control program will see a boost in the efforts to target the coral-eating starfish.

Under this program, our top priority is maintaining coral cover and keeping starfish numbers below ecologically sustainable thresholds.

Monitoring on 21 priority reefs offshore Cairns and Port Douglas in 2016–17 showed the outbreak was successfully reduced to ecologically sustainable levels, with live coral cover maintained at 20 per cent despite the impacts of bleaching

Ramping up our on-water presence in the Marine Park ensures compliance with Reef-wide zoning, which defines what activities can occur in each location.

More field officers on the water and improved compliance provide early warning of further bleaching and allow us to deliver more reef and island management interventions.

This work by field officers is more important than ever to support the Reef ecosystem to recover from persistent threats.

No-take Marine National Park “green” Zones make up about a third of the Marine Park and are designed to help protect and conserve the biodiversity of the ecosystem.

Research indicates zoning — which came into effect in 2004 — is having positive effects on biodiversity as the offspring of fish living in green zones ‘spill over’ into adjacent areas open to fishing.

Longer-term monitoring shows reefs in green zones are more resilient to coral disease, crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks and cyclones and recover from impacts much faster than adjacent reefs in other zones.

We’re delighted to collaborate with two of Australia’s most respected research institutions — the Australian Institute of Marine Science and CSIRO — on a research program designed to build resilience and repair the Reef.

We have a long history of working together for the Great Barrier Reef and look forward to the initial planning and feasibility assessment phase of the program.