Joint media release: Reef partnership to plant 100,000 corals off Cairns & Port Douglas

27 February 2021

The Hon Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment
The Hon Warren Entsch MP, Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef

One Hundred Thousand corals will be planted on reefs in the Cairns and Port Douglas region through a world leading partnership between the Great Barrier Reef Foundation the University of Technology Sydney and five local tourism operators.

Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley said the partnership was an example of the industry and researchers coming together through the Reef Trust Partnership to strengthen the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.

“These are corals that have been grown in underwater nurseries from salvaged ‘broken’ fragments which are then attached to reefs through an innovative Queensland invention called Coralclip®,” Minister Ley said.

“The clips join the corals to the Reef to rehabilitate damaged areas and boost the resilience of healthy areas without the need for chemical bonding agents.

“It is twice as fast and more cost effective than traditional methods, and has contributed to an impressive planted coral survival rate of 85%.”

Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, Warren Entsch said that the project was another example of the world leading science that is helping the Reef and the benefits of working with local communities.

“The Great Barrier Reef is a spectacular marine environment and I’m pleased to see the Foundation working with local tourism operators who are passionate about protecting the Reef,”  Special Envoy Entsch said.

Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director Anna Marsden said the first 5,000 corals are already being planted as part of this project.

“We’re seeing the effects of climate change on our Reef and the impacts of back-to-back bleaching events,” Ms Marsden said.

“In order to save this irreplaceable ecosystem, we need to fast track its recovery by restoring reefs damaged by the effects of climate change.”

Ms Marsden said bringing together science and tourism is key to the project’s success.

“By bringing together the knowledge of marine science experts and the resources and experience of the tourism industry, we’re able to deliver local reef restoration at a scale never seen before on our Great Barrier Reef.

“We’re also able to reach these scales thanks to the Coralclip® technology. This Queensland invention has been a game-changer for coral restoration because it offers a fast and more cost-effective solution to out-planting corals.”

University of Technology Sydney Project Research Lead Professor David Suggett said developing Coralclip® has enabled us to replant coral faster  than ever  before, without the use of chemicals.

“It has transformed how tourism can actively steward reef sites,” Prof. Suggett said.

“In trialling coral nurseries to propagate corals we’ve already shown we can fast track growth to the size they reproduce, meaning we can plant them on a reproductively challenged Reef to accelerate recovery.

“Our research-tourism partnership is a world first model to ensure reef stakeholder efforts are not just about replanting coral, but using innovative science to make informed propagation decisions needed to nurture a more resilient Great Barrier Reef under climate change.”

Wavelength Reef Cruises owner John Edmondson said Reef tourism operators already undertake a number of site stewardship actions to help monitor and protect live coral cover.

“This program enables those actions to extend to actively growing and planting corals to boost live coral cover at those sites where it’s beneficial, such as assisting recovery after a cyclone.”

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation is delivering more than 100 Reef-saving projects right now; and, through its Reef Trust Partnership with the Australian Government has invested in the Coral Nurture Program over three and a half years with the University of Technology Sydney and tourism operators providing substantial in-kind support for field operations.

Participating tourism operators are Wavelength Reef Cruises, Ocean Free and Ocean Freedom, Passions of Paradise, Sailaway and Quicksilver Group.