The waters and islands known as Keppel Bay are located 15 kilometres east of Yeppoon, just north of the Tropic of Capricorn.
The bay is studded with islands ranging from bare rock to larger islands such as North Keppel Island (Konomie) and Great Keppel Island (Woppa).
The Keppel Bay islands support beautiful fringing reefs containing resilient coral species.
This location provides an opportunity to learn more about the capacity for Reef Stars to be used in the rehabilitation of inshore fringing reefs, including those with significant macroalgae cover; it also provides an opportunity for collaboration among stakeholders.
Following on from the Green Island reef rehabilitation project and Project Reefresh: Bait Reef rehabilitation, a multi-stakeholder team comprising the Reef Authority, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service as part of the Reef Joint Field Management Program, the Woppaburra TUMRA Aboriginal Corporation (WTAC), Mars Incorporated, Keppel Dive and Freedom Fast Cats, have joined to deliver Yarul Dhingiga: Keppel Bay reef rehabilitation project.
This project further trials the Mars Assisted Reef Restoration System (MARRS) Reef Star techniques on two of the inshore fringing reefs of Great Keppel Island and at a smaller site at Humpy Island Reef (Burye).
This location provides an excellent opportunity for collaboration among stakeholders and opportunities for education and awareness among visitors.
- Yarul Dhingiga used:
- 200 Reef Stars at Monkey and Shelving Reefs
- 50 Reef Stars at Humpy Island Reef
- 3000+ Corals of opportunity
- Regular, ongoing site management and detailed monitoring will be completed over a five-year period to:
- Establish the level of habitat recovery
- Learn more about how Reef Stars might be integrated into the work of Marine Park managers in the future.
- This project aims to:
- Promote hard coral coverage in popular snorkelling reefs on Great Keppel Island, where coral rubble and macroalgae hamper recovery.
- Provide technical and field training for Marine Parks staff, project partners and Traditional Owners in the use of ‘Reef Stars’ as a reef rehabilitation tool.
- Support access to the rehabilitation sites by local tourism operators and their clients and the public to build awareness and understanding about the pressures on the Great Barrier Reef and the evolving efforts to mitigate some of these.
- Develop and trial rehabilitation tools for our reef management toolbox should we need them in the future.
Why the Keppel Bay islands?
- This location provides an opportunity to learn more about the capacity for Reef Stars to be used in the rehabilitation of in-shore fringing reefs and those with significant macroalgae cover.
- This location provides an excellent opportunity for collaboration among stakeholders and opportunities for education and awareness among visitors.
- These works were part of the Reef Joint Field Management Program — dedicated to protecting the Reef and delivered in partnership through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Department of Environment and Science through the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.
The Mars Assisted Reef Restoration System (MARRS) Reef Stars have been used across all project sites on Yarul Dhingiga: Keppel Bay reef rehabilitation project.
Mars Assisted Reef Restoration System (MARRS) reef stars
Reef stars are hexagonal metal frames coated with limestone sand to aid coral attachment.
Live coral fragments, also known as corals of opportunity, broken through previous impacts, are collected in close proximity to the project site and fixed to the frames.
These frames are then placed on top of the seabed in areas of loose coral rubble and provide a stable platform for live coral fragment attachment.
The live coral fragments should continue to grow and eventually cover the reef star structure.
MARRS Reef Stars were originally developed by Mars Incorporated for use in Indonesia to rehabilitate reefs impacted by blast fishing but have since been trialled by the Reef Authority at Green Island and at Project Reefresh: Bait Reef.
Fragments of opportunity at both sites on Great Keppel Island have attached well to the MARRS Reef Stars with less than 2% mortality.
The site at Humpy Reef, with increased levels of macroalgae, the cover also appears successful.
Work commenced on location on the afternoon of Tuesday, 11 October. Initially, the team surveyed the area and then began collecting ‘corals of opportunity’. These are coral fragments and colonies which have been broken off by some previous impact and are unlikely to survive long-term in their current setting.
During collection and prior to implementation, the collected corals were kept in the ocean to ensure survival and maintain vibrancy.
On Thursday, 13 October, multiple stakeholders met on Shelving beach to attach the corals to the Reef Stars and place them in their long-term position.
The project team then continued through the weekend to complete the Reef Star installation at the three sites. A total of 200 Reef Stars were installed, 75 at both Monkey and Shelving Reefs and 50 at Humpy Island reef.
The Traditional Owners, the Woppaburra people, officially named the project in a naming ceremony. Meaghan Cummins, the Woppaburra Chair, noted that the program is about restoring country and restoring her people.
This was embodied in the project when the local corals, initially removed, were returned to the same location, now attached to Reef Stars.
Preparation continues for the upcoming installation of Mars Reef Stars at Great Keppel and Humpy Islands with initial pre-installation surveys and marking out of project sites using small star pickets.
After consultation with the Woppaburra TUMRA, the project is named Yarul Dhingiga, meaning Yarul - connecting rope and Dhingiga - setting down
On Thursday, 13 October, live coral fragments will be attached to the reef stars from a temporary work base at Shelving Beach.
This will be an ideal opportunity for the local community to engage with the project and possibly help with tying coral fragments
- Reef intervention trials like this one are:
- Not a replacement for major global action to address greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of climate change on coral reefs globally.
- Not a replacement for continued efforts to address other impacts on the Great Barrier Reef.
- Designed to assist natural recovery processes in small areas of reef that have been impacted by environmental stressors.
- Potentially very useful to improve the condition of ‘high-value’ areas of the reef (for example popular tourist sites or an area with identified specific high ecological value).
- Examples of partnership actions that may become more broadly used across the Great Barrier Reef.
- Designed to include technical and field-based training for stakeholders and ongoing monitoring and reporting to help improve scientific understanding and measure levels of success.
The Woppaburra people are the Traditional Custodians of what is today known as the Keppel Islands.
Archaeological evidence linking the Woppaburra people to the islands includes midden sites, burial sites, a bora ring, huts, stone artefacts and campsites, indicating that the Woppaburra people were sea-faring saltwater people and island specialists living off the island environment and surrounding inshore reefs and ocean.
The Woppaburra are from a wider Whale Dreaming Indigenous Community around coastal Australia, and as such, the spiritual saltwater totem for the Woppaburra and their islands is the humpback whale.