Tourism Industry Activation and Reef Protection Initiative a Splashing Success
Seventeen marine tourism operators along the Great Barrier Reef have undertaken thousands of hours of Reef conservation activities as part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Tourism Industry Activation and Reef Protection Initiative.
The $3.2 million initiative, which wrapped up on June 30, was part of the Australian Government’s
$1billon COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund. It aimed to support existing frontline jobs in the Reef’s tourism industry while simultaneously helping conserve high-value tourism sites along the Reef.
Tourism operators were contracted to conduct a number of activities including:
- In-water Reef Health and Impact Surveys (RHIS) to monitor coral condition and the Reef’s composition, primarily from reef tourism sites, and upload the data to the Great Authority’s Eye on the Reef system. The Eye on the Reef monitoring and assessment program enables anyone who visits the Great Barrier Reef to contribute to its long-term protection.
- Reef intervention and conservation activities under existing Marine Park permits (such as coral gardening, macro-algae removal and controlling the population of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish).
- Capturing real-time imagery of the Reef and operational activities to be used in developing education and communication materials that educate people about the beauty of the Reef and the need for its protection.
Since getting underway in late February, the operators notched up an impressive 692 days of activity on the Reef, providing 4815 days of employment for staff in the Reef’s tourism industry.
The seventeen tourism operators involved in the initiative were contracted to execute a number of site stewardship activities, including conducting in-water Reef health surveys to monitor coral condition.
Operators uploaded over 2000 surveys to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Eye on the Reef system, providing the Reef Authority with valuable data on the current state of the Reef.
In addition to completing Reef health surveys, tourism partners conducted in-water activities that support reef resilience, including removing macro-algae, culling pest species and coral gardening.
The initiative supported operators to undertake 458 hours of reef research and plant 22,212 coral fragments. Operators helped control pest species such as crown-of-thorns starfish and Drupella snails, removing 63,149 of these snails and 1081 crown-of-thorns starfish.
The Great Barrier Reef makes up about 10 per cent of the world’s coral reef ecosystems, and is one of the most complex natural systems on Earth. Tourism operators play a vital role in educating visitors on responsible ways to enjoy the activities within the Marine Park. They help enhance visitor experiences of the Reef and play an important role in protecting the amazing biodiversity that supports their industry.
This initiative provided tourism operators with an opportunity to encourage their guests to take part in some of the conservation activities they were undertaking during their Reef visit, helping to enrich a visitor’s experience of this spectacular ecosystem. Through communicating ecological processes to tourists, it increases awareness of threats to the Reef in the wider community and leads the way to inspiring visitors to take action to protection the Reef.
These vital activities undertaken by operators have helped ensure that key tourism sites are maintained and ready to welcome visitors as COVID-19 travel restrictions ease.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will continue to support the tourism industry as they begin to shift through the recovery phases from the pandemic.