Seventeen marine tourism operators along the entire Great Barrier Reef will take to the water from this week for Reef site monitoring, maintenance and conservation work.
The $3.2 million initiative is part of the Australian Government’s $1 billon COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund to support regions, communities, and industry sectors severely affected by the coronavirus crisis.
Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the initiative helped ensure business continuity for the tourism industry as well as helping conserve and protect high-value reef tourism sites.
“We’re delighted to support our passionate tourism operators to monitor reef health, control native pest outbreaks, and conduct restoration activities at local reef sites,” Ms Ley said.
“We’re aiming to encourage people to come and see the Reef when it is safe to do so, fall in love with it, and do their bit to protect the Reef for future generations to enjoy.
“The initiative engages the Reef tourism industry to undertake in-water conservation and monitoring activities — such as reef health and impact surveys, coral gardening, or protecting coral cover by culling coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish.
“This important work will help ensure key tourism sites are properly maintained and ready to welcome guests as COVID-19 travel restrictions are eased.”
Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef and Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said the project would support about 300 existing frontline Reef tourism jobs.
He said supporting local jobs on the Reef will be vital for getting Queenslanders back on their feet especially considering the tough times the tourism sector has faced because of the global pandemic.
“The project aims to provide a degree of business continuity for tourism operations through the provision of key services at 243 high-value tourism sites,” Mr Entsch said.
“Operators will undertake in-water conservation and monitoring activities, including reef health and impact surveys, coral gardening and culling crown-of-thorns starfish.
“Imagery captured of the Reef during these activities will also be used to help keep the Reef top of mind for people nationally and internationally and support tourism recovery campaigns both domestically and overseas.”
Operators will collect important data from in-water surveys through the Authority’s Eye on the Reef system, improving knowledge of reef impacts and recovery.
They will also capture videos and photos to document their activities and enable the Marine Park Authority to share their images with the world, highlighting the beauty of the Reef and our efforts to protect it.
Participating tourism operators were selected through an open tender process run by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
The activities will occur at 234 reefs until 30 June 2021.
In-water activities under this initiative directly support the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Reef Blueprint, which outlines what actions can support reef resilience.
More information on the $1 billon COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund can be found at regional.gov.au/regional/programs/covid-19-relief-and-recovery-fund.aspx.