With No Tourists, Australian Scuba Tours Are Planting Coral Instead

The coronavirus pandemic has forced us to stay home. Pretty much every country is in lockdown, and walks in nature are not that common these days. We have to stay home to flatten the curve and stay safe.

Most of us use this time to do something productive. We cook, read and do whatever we want.

Tour operators in Australia used this period to restore corals. Tourism in Australia doesn’t thrive at the moment, and tour boats are empty. Companies are now using their boats to restore the Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the best tourist destinations in the world. It is one of the seven wonders of the world, and you can actually see it from the space. Moreover, the reef is the only living “thing” visible from space.

There are over 3000 reef systems and coral cays and hundreds of attractive tropical islands.

Staffers from Passions of Paradise, a dive tour operator, did their best to plant corals in the area.

Chief Executive Officer Scott Garden said that they have donated the state-of-the-art catamaran Passions III and fuel to support the Coral Nurture Program. Mr. Hosp and Passions of Paradise marine biologist Kirsty Whitman, volunteered in the project.

“We have been assisting Dr. David Suggett’s team from the University of Technology Sydney who is conducting reef resilience research at one of our 26 reef sites,” Garden said. “I have been working with Passions of Paradise Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Russell Hosp at the site most weeks recording data for the project and establishing a coral nursery.”

Project coordinator and PhD student Lorna Howlett, explains that their project has five Cairns and Port Douglas reef companies: Passions of Paradise, Wavelength, Ocean Freedom, Sailaway and Quicksilver Cruises.

“The Coral Nurture Program aims to give operators yet another stewardship activity they can do at their reef sites in addition to Crown-of-Thorns eradication and the Eye on Reef monitoring program,” Lorna said, adding that this is the first time “on the Great Barrier Reef that tourism operators have worked alongside researchers and the first time that a coral clip has been used to attach corals to the reef.”

It’s a serious project, and the results were impressive.

“It involves finding fragments of opportunity – coral fragments that have naturally broken off – and attaching them back on to the reef using a coral clip. We can only use fragments of opportunity found at the site, so Passions of Paradise has installed six frames at the site which can be used as a nursery to grow more corals. Once they find a coral fragment they attach it to the nursery to grow and as it grows they can take fragments from it to attach to the reef giving them a continual source of new corals. The 12-month project finishes next month, however, the operators can continue to operate the nurseries and outplant the corals.”

Garden explained that they have planted corals on Hastings Reef. In the future, tourists “will be able to snorkel over the site which boasts healthy marine life and corals near the nursery.”

November 19 – Passions of Paradise Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Russell Hosp has the coral fragments ready for the Hastings Reef Nursery.

Coral reefs are important for the ecosystem. Protect the reefs. The first thing you should stop doing is drop the boat chain/anchor near reef. Hold the urge to touch the corals. Picking corals to gift them later is not a good idea.

There are so many ways to protect the coral reef health and conservation.

  • Be careful about your seafood choices. Read.
  • Conserve water and don’t flush chemicals into the water.
  • Volunteer. Local beach and reef cleanup programs can use your help.