REEF RESTORATION: The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has given official approvals for the next stage of the Underwater Tourism Infrastructure in the Whitsunday project.
REEF RESTORATION: The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has given official approvals for the next stage of the Underwater Tourism Infrastructure in the Whitsunday project. Cruise Whitsundays

Coral colonies given the green light

MORE THAN 400 coral colonies will be planted around the Whitsunday islands complimenting six underwater artworks as part of the Underwater Tourism Infrastructure in the Whitsunday project.

On Tuesday afternoon (December 4), Tourism Whitsundays announced the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority had given official approvals for the next stage of the project to begin.

The colonies are set to be planted in sheltered bays on mid-water coral nursery frames for 6-12 months before being planted on surrounding degraded reef.

A Tourism Whitsundays statement said two sites at Blue Pearl and Manta Ray Bay had been selected so far, based on baseline ecological surveys and strong support from Whitsunday stakeholders.

This part of the project represents the first step towards larger-scale and longer-term reef restoration activities that will involve local divers, citizen scientists and tourists helping the Great Barrier Reef recover, the statement said.

Reef Ecologic director and associate professor Adam Smith said he believed this project was critical for the local community following the effects of Cyclone Debbie in 2017. 

"This project represents an important and positive action by scientists and the local community to improve the health of our precious inshore coral reefs,” he said.

Reef restoration scientist Nathan Cook said they would work closely with the Whitsunday community to "share knowledge, undertake training and restore hope through active, hands-on involvement in the Whitsundays reef restoration project”.

Tourism Whitsundays chief executive officer Tash Wheeler welcomed the approval of the permit.

"The Whitsundays region has some amazing natural attractions and facilities, including the Ngaro Sea Trail, Whitehaven Beach, and now visitors can make a real difference by working with scientists on coral reef nurseries and exploring unique underwater art and education,” she said.

The Underwater Tourism Infrastructure in the Whitsunday project is part of the joint state and federally funded $7 million Tourism Recovery Fund.