Reef restoration project showing positive signs
A CORAL restoration project in the Great Barrier Reef has yielded successful results so far with a 90 per cent overall survival rate reported in the first six weeks.
Coral fragments, sourced from surrounding reef, were planted on nursery trays and rope nurseries at Manta Ray Bay off Hook Island and Blue Pearl Bay off Hayman Island in November.
The project came off the back of coral damage after ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie in March 2017.
Reef Ecologic marine scientist Nathan Cook said if successful, the pilot project could help assist the recovery of severely degraded sections of the reef and aid coral biodiversity.
"There's been good recovery from coral bleaching in other locations. But some areas of the reef don't have the diversity of species to support the biodiversity that existed before," he said.
"What you don't get in a lot of places is that recovery potential.
"What we're trying to do is assist the recovery of that biodiverse environment to what it was before."
Mr Cook, Reef Ecologic director Dr Adam Smith, Ocean Rafting skipper James Unsworth and volunteer Kailash Cook conducted a maintenance trip to the coral nurseries on January 17.
Out of 425 coral fragments, Mr Cook said 380 had survived and showed signs of healthy growth while 45 fragments were identified as dead or missing.
Nine new coral colonies were planted at Blue Pearl Bay and 19 were planted at Manta Ray Bay during the maintenance and monitoring trip in January.
Whitsunday tourism operators including Ocean Rafting have committed to monitoring the sites during weekly tours.
Mr Unsworth said he had been actively taking people to see the nurseries to show them what was happening and why.
"I think it's a good education point because coral grows in the right water quality. So the fact that it has been successful shows the water has been good here," he said.
But the critical part of the project is yet to come.
Mr Cook said it is was hoped the coral would be out-planted this year, and monitored over the next two years.
"Within two years of project commencement, we would hope the coral would be growing healthy and strong and associated marine life is flourishing, demonstrating the efficacy of reef restoration projects like this one," he said.