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The summer period provided some challenges for the 26 Tourism Operators who are engaged in the Tourism Reef Protection Initiative; with dedication these operators were able to continue service delivery throughout this time. Tropical Cyclones Jasper and Kirrily impacted reefs and communities throughout the Great Barrier Reef, with both direct and indirect impacts including subsequent widespread flooding. Additionally, the Reef Authority confirmed a mass coral bleaching event during this period due to the prolonged exposure to elevated sea temperatures.

Operators engaged in the Tourism Reef Protection Initiative have provided critical reef health data throughout this period of increased disturbance.

Despite the setbacks of these events almost 3,500 reef health surveys have been contributed to the Eye on the Reef system during this period. In addition, operators responded to the previous request by Reef Authority managers to increase Photo Point enhancement visual image monitoring with a 280% increase in these surveys over the summer period. The additional visual data provided by these photo surveys is aiding the Reef Authority in gaining a better understanding of how individual reefs respond to disturbance events and providing greater detail on the response of individual coral groups. To have this unique capacity to contribute ‘real time’ data is a valuable resource to the Reef Authority during a major event and contributes to the understanding of coral reef resilience.

Operators will continue to undertake site stewardship and reef protection services at high value tourism sites providing vital information to the Reef Authority.

  • Delivery Period Results December 2023 to February 2024
  • Total service delivery activity days: 614
  • 920 Reef Protection Service site visits
  • Reef Health Surveys: 3,490
  • Photo Point enhancement transects: 254
  • Coral predator control days: 493
  • Crown-of-thorns starfish culled: 232
  • Drupella snail controlled: 49,778
  • On Country visits: 26
  • Supported on country visitation for 240 Traditional Owners on 55 days    
  • 75 school education excursions for 1,025 students
  • Total days of Be a Marine Biologist for a Day delivered at a location: 11
     

The 26 Tourism Operators who are engaged in the Tourism Reef Protection Initiative have steadily increased their capacity in the delivery of services during this reporting period. The wealth of reef health surveys both statistically and photographically is a valuable tool contributing to the monitoring, reporting and management of the Great Barrier Reef.

A further 12% increase in service delivery this period has resulted in 3,730 reef health monitoring surveys contributed to the Eye on the Reef system.

Tourism Operators were asked by the Reef Authority to increase the number of Photo Point enhancement transects to provide images submitted to ReefCloud to give a more detailed ‘snapshot in time’ of reef health prior to the coming summer season. Summer typically caries a higher chance of a disturbance event occurring, and Tourism Operators have responded with record submissions of data.

Alongside increased survey activity, operators have contributed a 63% increase in image transects uploaded to ReefCloud

 

(ReefCloud is a program developed by the Australian Institute of Marine Science harnessing the power of human collaboration and artificial intelligence to monitor and improve reporting on reef health).

  • Delivery Period Results September to November 2023
  • Total service delivery activity days: 547
  • Protection Services Conducted at 606 reef sites
  • Reef Health Surveys: 3,730
  • Photo Point enhancement transects: 90
  • Coral predator control days: 520
  • Crown-of-thorns starfish culled: 358
  • Drupella snail controlled: 50, 767
  • On Country visits: 24
  • Total Traditional Owner visitors: 27
  • Total days of Be a Marine Biologist for a Day delivered at a location: 18
  • Total participants of Be a Marine Biologist for a Day: 365

Service delivery for the Tourism Reef Protection Initiative has continued at a high level matching the previous reporting period.

The 26 tourism operators engaged through the Tourism Reef Protection Initiative have delivered a combined total of 576 on-water days of providing reef protection services to 606 high-value and ecologically significant sites and facilitated visitation to sea country for 27 Traditional Owners.

A further 7 per cent increase in service delivery has resulted in over 3,000 reef monitoring surveys contributed to the Eye on the Reef system.
 
In addition to delivering in-water services, tourism operators have also continued to develop educational content packages to deliver interpretive up-to-date information to visitors as well as educating school and university groups through targeted, curriculum-based programs.;
  • At the conclusion of the reporting period (end of August 2023), suppliers have conducted over 576 on-water days delivering reef protection and conservation services:
  • Total service delivery activity days: 576
  • Visits to a primary location: 152
  • Visits to secondary locations: 454
  • Total Reef Health Impact Surveys: 2,656
  • Total Tourism Weekly Surveys: 458
  • Photo point enhancement transects: 59
  • Coral predator control days: 517
  • Crown-of-thorns starfish culled: 604
  • Drupella snail controlled: 42,587
  • On Country visits: 16
  • Total Traditional Owner visitors: 27
  • Total days of Be a Marine Biologist for a Day delivered at a location: 19

After the first six months of service delivery, we have seen incredible results from the twenty-six tourism operations delivering reef protection services.

 

Nearly 5,000 reef health monitoring surveys were submitted to the Eye on the Reef program, over 500 Crown of Thorns Starfish were culled, and over 71,000 coral-eating Drupella snails were removed. 





The mid-project snapshot report demonstrates that the Tourism Reef Protection Initiative delivers results for the Reef, providing conservation, monitoring, and protection at high-value tourism sites across the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

 

Commonwealth of Australia - Reef Authority - Senator Green - Fiona - Nick

Special Envoy to the Great Barrier Reef, Senator Nita Green, was in Cairns to announce the Tourism Reef Protection Initiative mid-project snapshot report on Monday, 14 August 2023.

 

The Tourism Reef Protection Initiative aims to build capacity across the tourism industry, support and protect tourism sites, and increase in-water monitoring and site stewardship actions from the far north to the southern Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. 

 

 

Tourism Reef Protection Initiative Mid-Project Snapshot

Service delivery activity under the Initiative has increased by more than 25 per cent since the previous reporting period

During May, more than 1000 reef health surveys were conducted. This is the largest contribution to the Eye on the Reef system in a single month.

This volume of data is providing reef managers with the most comprehensive real-time dataset for management decisions to date, allowing decision-makers to be as informed as possible. 

Tourism operators are fostering an even greater awareness and sense of stewardship and protection of the areas of the Great Barrier Reef that they frequently visit.  
 
Capacity building continued with another round of Eye on the Reef survey training.

The impact of these capacity-building exercises is apparent, with the total number of unique surveyors contributing to management data collection has increased four-fold since the Initiative started.

 

  • At the conclusion of the reporting period (end of May 2023), suppliers have conducted over 538
    on-water days delivering reef protection and conservation services:
  • Total service delivery activity days: 538
  • Visits to a primary location: 434
  • Visits to secondary locations: 459
  • Total Reef Health Impact Surveys: 2406
  • Total Tourism Weekly Surveys: 699
  • Photo point enhancement transects: 79
  • Coral predator control days: 452
  • Crown-of-thorns starfish culled: 332
  • Drupella snail controlled: 52,053
  • On Country visits: 29
  • Total Traditional Owner visitors: 54
  • Total days of Be a Marine Biologist for a Day delivered at a location: 13

This period focused on capacity building and project planning for each of the tourism operators engaged under the Initiative.

New surveyors between Cape Tribulation and Lady Elliot were trained in Eye on the Reef methodologies, and reef protection service areas were defined for each operator.

Each of the operators identified a primary site and at least one secondary site, along with detailed monitoring plans covering how and where services would take place on each site.

This process identified that 109 individual reefs are targeted by the initiative, with 272 unique sites identified by the Reef Authority as high-value tourism sites.

  • Primary sites services include a range of stewardship activities:
  • Development of an in-depth site monitoring plan.
  • Regular visitation, including high-frequency monitoring systems utilizing Tourism Weekly surveys and machine-learning-assisted photo surveys.
  • Established Photo Point Enhancement Transects submitting images to be analysed with the ReefCloud AI program developed by the Australian Institute of Marine Science.  
  • Substantial, ongoing coral predator surveys and control efforts were required.
  • Permitted assisted recovery and site intervention activities.

 

  • Secondary sites are assessed every 3 months to gain a regular snapshot of the current condition of a site and take immediate actions where required. Activities at these sites include:
  • Reef health assessment surveys utilizing Reef Health and Impacts Surveys 
  • Targeted coral predator surveys and control efforts where required.

 

  • At the conclusion of the reporting period (end of February 2023), suppliers have conducted over 400
    on-water days delivering reef protection and conservation services:
  • Total service delivery activity days: 404
  • Visits to a primary location: 327
  • Visits to secondary locations: 300
  • Total Reef Health Impact Surveys: 1309
  • Total Tourism Weekly Surveys: 491
  • Photo point enhancement transects: 64
  • Coral predator control days: 276
  • Crown-of-thorns starfish culled: 175
  • Drupella snail controlled: 19,736 
  • On Country visits: 33
  • Total Traditional Owner visitors: 77
  • Total days of Be a Marine Biologist for a Day delivered at a location: 14  

The Australian Government has launched its $15.1 million Tourism Reef Protection Initiative to support the marine tourism industry along the Great Barrier Reef as it continues to grapple with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiative, funded by the Government’s $1.2 billion Reef Protection package, enables marine tourism operators to provide important Reef protection and conservation services at high-value tourism sites across the Great Barrier Reef through June 2024. 

It follows the highly successful $3.2 million Tourism Industry Activation and Reef Protection Initiative delivered by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in 2021 to support the sector at the height of domestic and international border closures.

Twenty-six tourism operators along the Reef have been selected through a competitive tender process to participate in the initiative.

  • The selection process required operators to demonstrate their capability in delivering: 
  • reef health and impact monitoring,
  • on-country visits for Traditional Owners,
  • crown-of-thorns starfish control,
  • Drupella snail removal,
  • Reef education resources,
  • site intervention activities such as ‘coral gardening’ and
  • connecting visitors to the values of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

 

More than 50 new surveyors were trained in various Eye on the Reef programs before the initiative.

As the official monitoring system of the Great Barrier Reef, the data gathered through these surveys plays a vital role in informing the management of the Marine Park.

The stewardship provided by the successful operators will enhance the scope of monitoring, control, and preservation of key tourism sites across the Reef as the impacts of COVID-19 begin to ease.

The initiative will deliver services at up to 100 strategically selected reefs from the far north to the southernmost locations across the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The launch of the initiative was publicly announced by Special Envoy to the Great Barrier Reef, Senator Nita Green, alongside the Reef Authority and tourism industry representatives.

 

Tourism operators play a key role in how we protect and manage the Great Barrier Reef. Their high frequency visitation to the Reef positions them to provide regular pulse checks of the health of the Reef and witness changes when they happen.

The Tourism Reef Protection Initiative empowers Reef Tourism operators to monitor and protect the sites that they visit. Operators are contracted under the $1.2 billion Reef protection package, to undertake reef protection services that ensure the preservation of the world heritage values now and into the future. 

The initiative builds on the highly successful Eye on the Reef citizen science program, as well as the High standard Tourism Operator and Master Reef Guide programs, with $15.1 million allocated to engage marine tourism operators through to 30 June 2024.

Twenty-six tourism operations were selected through a competitive open tender assessment process to deliver Reef protection and conservation services. 

  • These services include:
  • Development of Site Stewardship Plans
  • High frequency reef health surveys and monitoring actions 
  • Crown-of-thorns starfish control
  • Drupella snail removal
  • Facilitation of on-country visits for Traditional Owners
  • Development and implementation of reef education and interpretation programs 
  • Assisted recovery and site-intervention activities
© Commonwealth of Australia - Reef Authority - Tourism Reef Protection Initiative - GBR-Safaris-Traditional Owner Sean doing-a-Secci
© Commonwealth of Australia - Reef Authority - Tourism Reef Protection Initiative -Down-Under-Dive-Alistair-Chegwidden-Drupella-removal-Evolutions-Saxon Reef
© Commonwealth of Australia - Reef Authority - Tourism Reef Protection Initiative - Experience-Co-GBR-Biology-03052023-Fitzroy-Island-Rocks-BAMBFAD-Staff-Planning-Kashenka-Kristy-Brian-Ahkeem-Florence
© Commonwealth of Australia - Reef Authority -Tourism Reef Protection Initiative - Ocean-Safari-Crew-training
© Commonwealth of Australia - Reef Authority - Tourism Reef Protection Initiative - MRG-Jessica-injecting-a-COT-with-vinegar-at-SW-Lady Elliott Island
Created
Updated 2 Apr 2024
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