Expanding eyes on the Reef’s health

Cairns and Port Douglas tourism operators are heading to Moore Reef off Cairns tomorrow (Friday 27 March 2015) to brush up on monitoring the Great Barrier Reef.

The day-long training is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s (GBRMPA) 2015 training sessions for marine tourism operators participating in its long-running Eye on the Reef monitoring program.

Eye on the Reef enables anyone out on the water — rangers, marine tourism staff, scientists, fishers, tourists and other Reef users — to collect valuable information about reef health, animals and incidents.

Reef users can report their Reef sightings and observations to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Tourism operators are specifically trained to monitor sites weekly.

GBRMPA acting tourism and stewardship director Dr Roger Beeden said information from tourism operators was important to Marine Park managers because it helped create a picture of overall Reef health.

“The weekly surveys can be completed at frequently-visited tourist hot-spots to get an idea of changes happening over time,” he said.

“This long-term trend data is vital, informing our understanding of Reef health and the management actions necessary to protect the ecosystem.”

The training, specifically developed for the tourism industry, teaches operators to complete a weekly survey of what they see on the Reef, including looking for coral bleaching, disease, damage and predation, as well as recording sightings of protected and iconic marine animals.

Dr Beeden said the weekly monitoring program was one of several surveys.

“If operators are keen to upskill, we can train them to complete other surveys at infrequently visited parts of the Marine Park to get a snapshot of its health in those locations,” he said.

“Tourism operators are well-placed to monitor corals because they’re out there, on the water most days, which can lead to intimate knowledge.

“We train people from all backgrounds and skill levels — the main focus is getting tourism staff trained up in weekly survey techniques, but we are also training experienced staff in advanced tools for Reef surveying.”
There’s also an Eye on the Reef smartphone and desktop application for recording sightings of protected and iconic marine animals.

For more information or to get involved, check out the Eye on the Reef information on our website or email eyeonthereef@gbrmpa.gov.au.