The Pacific holds about 27 per cent of the world's tropical coral reefs. It is home to some of Earth's most pristine tropical coral reefs.
These reefs are facing similar challenges to our own Great Barrier Reef, and the race is on to take collective action to preserve their future.
Reef management delegates from across the Pacific congregated in Cairns to unpack some of these shared challenges and look to aspirations for the future in knowledge exchange for the protection and resiliency of our tropical coral reefs.
It galvanised the region's view on what is possible for reef management. We came out with four credible and linked business cases presenting a clear way forward. I believe that everyone involved came out so much richer. Dr Peter Davies SPREP
Special thanks for the initiative permitting us to gather and work on the same challenges we are facing in our singular situation/context in the region. - Merci, Oleti Joseph – New Caledonia.
Protection through partnerships
Protecting the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef, is not a feat that can be achieved single-handedly. As hosts of the inaugural Pacific Coral Reef Collective, the Reef Authority shared some of the programs we deliver within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, showcasing the partnerships vital to their success.
Our Reef Guardian programs focus on working with stakeholder groups interacting with the Great Barrier Reef.
The program targets local councils with waterways that feed into the Reef, schools located in the region, and commercial fishers who fish the Reef.
Our programs engage these groups to enact sustainable change locally and on the ground, aiming to improve the Reef's long-term outlook.
Local councillors Jeff Baines from Cassowary Coast Regional Council and Councillor Amy Eden from Cairns Regional Council showcased the actions that they are taking in their areas.
Establishing effective and meaningful partnerships with Traditional Owners is essential to protect cultural and heritage values, conserve biodiversity and enhance the resilience of reefs globally.
Traditional knowledge was central to the week as guests were welcomed to Yirrganydji and Yidinji Country.
Local Yirrganydji Land and Sea Rangers, the saltwater people of the Yirrgay dialect, took guests on an immersive experience amongst the mangroves to highlight the importance of protecting the coastal ecosystems that contribute so vitally to reef ecosystems.
These mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrass meadows function as natural carbon 'sinks' to sequester atmospheric carbon that would otherwise contribute to climate change. Rangers are partnering with Cairns Airport and Blue Carbon Lab on a Blue Carbon initiative to preserve this important area.
The Yirrganydji Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreement is one of several agreements along the Great Barrier Reef region that embed Traditional knowledge into protecting their Land and Sea Country.
The collective has improved how I prioritise community engagement towards management. I realise how engaging and dedicating more time to include traditional leaders in management actions and activities – Dua Marshall Islands.
With ever-advancing technology available to centralise data and knowledge, the Reef Authority and partners in the Australian Institute of Marine Science shared some of the databases used on the Great Barrier Reef to share, analyse, and store the latest information for the Reef.
The Reef Knowledge system is a centralised online window into the Great Barrier Reef's complex social and natural ecosystems. It provides a portal that combines information and knowledge to inform and guide management decisions in a changing environment.
ReefCloud is a digital tool that uses machine learning and advanced analysis to rapidly extract and share data from images of coral reefs anywhere in the world.
The platform is positioned to transform coral reef monitoring and management by allowing the world's coral reef monitoring community to work together in real-time.
A site to see
Even with a reef on your doorstep, nothing compares to submerging your head underwater; seeing the colour and movement never gets old.
This was certainly the case for a number of the delegates on their day out at Moore Reef. Despite being lumpy and bumpy, this didn't detract from the day.
Tourism operators help - showcase the natural values of reefs and can play a pivotal role in protecting the ecosystem's biodiversity.
Ecologically sustainable tourism was front and centre as high-standard tourism operators and master reef guides gave guests a firsthand experience of how tourism can contribute to reef management.
Localised restoration techniques
Managing a marine park has many layers to it.
From conserving the habitats and biodiversity to ensuring rules are in place to protect and comply with, we were joined by Queensland Park and Wildlife Service as we stepped out how we manage areas of marine, coastal and island parks that overlap with each other – through the Reef Joint Field Management Program.
Working closely with our state government counterparts is vital to ensure a united front in managing this World Heritage Area and the ecosystems that influence it.
Talanoa – the power of conversation
The week's highlight was the opportunity to debrief and digest the applications and opportunities of the case studies.
The conversations in each session brought nations closer as they discussed how the topics were relevant to their situations and dived deeper into the challenges they faced.
What's next for working with our Pacific family?
This work doesn't finish with the farewell dinner. While we said goodbye to our guests, this wasn't before mapping out areas where the different countries sought more information.
We are fortunate in Australia to have significant resourcing to manage our world heritage icon, the Great Barrier Reef.
Some departments across the Pacific only have five or six people, and the resourcing for managing their environment is far from this level. We are fortunate and keen to work with, collaborate and share our knowledge with others.
Sharing knowledge helps ensure the future of our global coral reefs.
We are busy collating all the information collected over the intensive week to identify additional knowledge-sharing requirements and opportunities. This is an exciting step towards - continuing to engage and collaborate.
This is just the beginning of an important conversation and partnership to help ensure the protection of coral reefs for both today and the future.
Thank you for having us and the knowledge and new ideas to take home to implement. This has been a life-changing experience, and I can't wait to see the projects and programs that will prosper from this – Naomi American Samoa.
Working together on coral reef conservation has been a pleasure, and I genuinely appreciate the dedication and passion demonstrated by everyone involved. The commitment to safeguarding our precious marine ecosystems is commendable, and I am thrilled to have contributed to this collective effort.- Maele New Caledonia
Thank you for your partnership and shared knowledge as we all work to protect our fragile coral reefs. We returned home with a wealth of knowledge and experience we hope to share with our fellow colleagues. - Ekueta – American Samoa