6 ways you can help keep the Great Barrier Reef great
As the world’s largest living structure, the Great Barrier Reef is arguably the planet’s most precious natural asset and while every visit to the reef contributes financially to its protection and management, there are a range of ways you can help protect the reef – some without even dipping your toe in the pristine waters.
Do your research
Knowing exactly what you’re preserving is one of the simplest ways to understand why protecting and conserving the reef is so important. Before you head there, research the most important species and how the reef can be best preserved. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is a great place to start. When you’re in Townsville, drop into Reef HQ, home to the Australian Government’s national research and education program, and the largest living coral reef aquarium in the world. While you’re there, make a donation to the aquarium, or become a member and/or a volunteer in the interpretation and education teams.
Choose the right operator
Before you book your tour, choose an eco-operator. Look for the Ecotourism Australia Advanced Accreditation, EarthCheck or Green Leader logos and/or Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority branding. Ecotourism Australia has also developed a Green Travel Guide of operators who are following or setting best practice in climate change and eco- or nature based tourism practices.
Our everyday reliance on plastic comes at a global cost. Wherever you live, ensure you take a natural-fibre, reusable bag or basket to do your groceries, cut down on packaging by buying in bulk, buy fruit and vegetables loose instead of in plastic bags, and support local growers by visiting farmers’ markets. Beer and soft-drink lovers can choose eco-friendly rings so there’s less risk of a turtle mistaking them for food.
The clean-up crew
The Eco Barge Clean Seas crew are bona fide reef saviours. Collecting marine debris by day and caring for marine turtles by night, these dedicated anti-litter bugs have been responsible for collecting more than 153,000 kilograms of sea-borne rubbish from the Whitsundays since 2009. In addition, the Eco Barge crew run clean streets and creeks programs and coastal clean-up days to prevent man-made litter entering the marine environment. The Eco Barge’s good work relies on the generosity of donors and volunteers to help with activities like removal trips, counting and sorting, working bees and caring for turtles. Register your interest to be added to the volunteer database for the Whitsunday and Mackay regions, or donate resources through the sponsor/supporter and donor channels.
During peak holiday periods, Queensland National Parks offers visitors to North West and Lady Musgrave islands in the Southern Great Barrier Reef the chance to camp for free in exchange for volunteering as campground hosts, providing island interpretation with a conservation message. You can also join ordinary folk like Nev and Bev McLachlan who make the trek each December to Deepwater National Park, near the twin towns of Agnes Water and 1770, to help nesting loggerhead turtles and to record vital information about their migration and nesting patterns.
Join the crusade
Join one of the many guardian programs, foundations and not-for-profit organisations working towards conserving the reef. Check out Reef Check Australia, Reef Teach, Earthwatch Australia and Conservation Volunteers, or become a Citizen of the Great Barrier Reef. Or learn more about the significant work being done by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. Current research projects include sequencing (or “sea-quencing”, as the foundation likes
to call it) the genomes of 10 coral varieties, monitoring the essential algae (known as CCA) that helps keep coral stable and testing a biodegradable surface film that would stop damaging levels of heat and light entering the