Keeping an eye on the Reef's health

How to keep an eye on the health of the Great Barrier Reef is the focus of workshops being held in Cairns and Port Douglas this week.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) will run the training sessions for marine tourism operators as part of its long-running Eye on the Reef program.

GBRMPA Tourism and Recreation Director Chris Briggs said the training in Reef monitoring techniques was held once a year at key sites along the Great Barrier Reef coast.

“The Eye on the Reef program is important to Marine Park managers because it helps create a picture of overall Reef health,” he said.

“We have 35 high standard tourism operators who monitor sites from the Ribbon Reefs in the northern Great Barrier Reef to Lady Elliot Island in the south on a weekly basis.

“The data they collect provides managers and scientists with a valuable long-term picture of what is occurring on the Reef.”

Mr Briggs said marine tourism operators were uniquely placed to provide data on trends in Reef health because they visited sites far more frequently than other Reef users.

"We absolutely value their involvement in this program because they know their sites intimately and they are in the best position to provide information about those sites."

He said the training sessions taught participants to look for impacts such as coral bleaching, disease, damage and predation, as well as for sightings of protected and iconic marine animals.

"Tourism operators who are involved in this program see great value in it because they understand that their industry is reliant on a healthy Great Barrier Reef.”

GBRMPA staff will also train marine park rangers and experienced Eye on the Reef participants in carrying out Reef Health and Impact Surveys (RHIS).

The RHIS assessments are used to evaluate the severity and extent of major impacts, such as coral bleaching and cyclones on the Reef.

Workshops will be held at Port Douglas today (16 April) and Cairns tomorrow (17 April). In-water training will be held on the Reef out from Cairns on Wednesday (18 April).