Whitsundays operators brush up on reef health monitoring

Ten Whitsundays tourism crew from four operators headed out on the water this week to brush up on their reef monitoring skills, with training from Australia’s lead management agency for the Great Barrier Reef.

The training by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to upskill operators during the pandemic is part of the Remaining Connected program, focused on helping key tourism staff to remain connected with each other and their reef tourism sites.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Director Reef Education and Stewardship Fred Nucifora said tourism operators were our best allies for monitoring the health of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

“For several months we’ve been working with the tourism industry to better understand their sites through continuation of monitoring of Reef health during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“Though this program, we’ve helped tourism crew develop reef monitoring skills they can readily apply at their sites on an ongoing basis to help us understand the condition of their sites.

“Their intel is incredibly valuable — tourism crew are uniquely placed to provide data on trends in reef health because they visit reef sites far more frequently than any other reef user.

“The trend data they collect supports other methods within the Eye on the Reef program that, when combined, paints a larger picture of overall reef health.”

Tourism crew learned scientific monitoring methods, how to use underwater monitoring equipment, and how to supply the information to the Marine Park Authority.

From here, they will completed weekly log sheets on turbidity, water temperature, algae, coral diseases and bleaching at their site, as well as the health, numbers and spawning activity of iconic and protected species.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will collect the information and use it to understand reef health, particularly over summer that is the highest risk period for corals from elevated temperatures.

Findings are returned to tourism operators and crew, and are used to develop a detailed “Nature Diary” they can use interpretation and training of staff.

The Great Barrier Reef tourism industry continues to play a vital role in the protection, presentation and stewardship of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

High standard tourism operators inspire people to visit the Great Barrier Reef, fall in love with it, and do what they can to protect it.