The Great Barrier Reef is one of the reasons so many tourists visit Australia. This World Heritage Area is a vibrant, beautiful ecosystem, which is very important to our country as well as the world. In 1981 the World Heritage Committee listed the Great Barrier Reef for all four natural criteria. The reef spans 2300 kilometers, is made up of over 3000 separate coral reefs, islands and sand cays, can be seen from outer space and is bigger in size than Italy! It has however been subject to a lot of media attention in recent times. Mainstream media and various “experts” are often looking for jucy news and to polarize opinions. Due to the complexity of the GBR the media reports are not always in line with reality. Hence there have been mixed reports about the state of the Great Barrier Reef, amongst others that the reef is almost gone. Although the reef is under great pressure this is certainly not the case!
We live in Cairns, Far North Queensland. Cairns is one of Australia’s key tourism destinations and one of the main gateways to visiting the Great Barrier Reef. Every year millions of tourists come to the region to do just that (over two million visitors to be more exact). Lucky for us we are out at the reef on a more regular basis and get to see what is happening firsthand.
We are fortunate to be working with a number of amazing people and organisations that have dedicated their time and efforts to monitoring the Great Barrier Reef on a regular basis. These people are out in the water regularly doing countless surveys of various reef sites to collect and provide data to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is Australia’s key management agency for the Great Barrier Reef, and works with government, industry, community organisations and individuals to help protect this spectacular area for future generations. GBRMPA is guided by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 to protect, reduce threats and improve the current and long-term outlook for the Great Barrier Reef. Amongst others, one of the key initiatives is to empower people and, through education and stewardship, help the community and stakeholders gain a clear understanding of the value of the reef and their role in protecting it.
Although the Great Barrier Reef has faced some great challenges in the past few years, particularly with climate change, that caused two significant bleaching events in 2016 & 2017 which would not have happened without global warming and COTS (Crown of Thorns Starfish) outbreaks, reports from surveyors indicate there are a lot of positive signs showing the reef is bouncing back. Research carried out by Reef Teach owner, Master Reef Guide and Marine Biologist Gareth Philips show there are vast areas with new coral growth at frequently visited reef sites off Cairns as well as rich diversity of marine life. This is a positive sign of this ecosystem fighting back as well as proof of its resilience.
Russell Hosp, Master Reef Guide, Environmental Manager at Passions of Paradise and our dedicated Eco-guide had this to say: “The Great Barrier Reef is an incredibly resilient ecosystem, and while it faces many different threats, it is important to remember that we are perhaps its greatest asset. By collecting data, engaging the public, and practicing best management strategies, we can help to ensure the long-term viability of this amazing natural resource.” Another optimistic point of view from a person who spends most of his days in the water.
Citizen Science – how can you get involved?
Since 2013 we have been offering a marine conservation program on the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns. As part of our 12-day Marine Conservation program volunteers get the opportunity to become certified divers and then as citizen scientists help collect valuable data and learn about this amazing wonder of the world. Further, with supervised in-water training with Russell and by completing GBRMPA’s online Rapid Monitoring course volunteers can become official surveyors of the Marine Park!
It is our goal for volunteers to experience firsthand that the reef is fragile, that we have to make changes if we want to preserve the reef. By taking part in our program you will hopefully share your story far and wide and become an Ambassador for the Great Barrier Reef.
During the course of our program you will undertake Rapid Monitoring surveys as divers. Rapid Monitoring surveys is a tool designed for people with little, to moderate reef experience, who can either snorkel confidently, or dive. It enables reef users to record what they see on the reef and report that data to GBRMPA. Under the strict guidance of Russell you will learn about and then undertake a number of underwater Rapid Monitoring surveys, which will be then uploaded to the GBRMPA database. Not only do you get to help the reef by collecting valuable data you also become a PADI certified diver, meet amazing people (Russell and Gareth amongst others) and you get to hang out on one of the wonders of the world.
Join our program, set an example on how to make a difference for future generations and become an Ambassador for the Great Barrier Reef!