Reef Warriors + 5 ways you can help the Great Barrier Reef today
Like all the world’s coral reefs, the Great Barrier Reef is under threat. Global warming, storm damage, Crown of Thorns Starfish (CoTS) outbreaks and pollution have all had an impact on the Reef over recent years. But even having suffered all this, the world’s largest living organism is still a spectacular sight and with all of our help, the Reef will survive.
Luckily, the largest coral reef in the world is also the best-managed reef in the world, with many people helping to save this global icon. There are projects that range from education programs, plastic pollution control, CoTS eradication, coral nurseries, renewable energy development and responsible stewardship by marine park tourism organisations.
The Reef has plenty of champions, many of whom have been helping to protect the Reef for years.
Meet the Reef Warriors:
The island, a hot spot for manta rays, now plays host to thousands of nesting seabirds, and over 80% of the island’s energy requirements are now sourced from a combined solar and battery storage system.
Libby Edge’s Eco Barge Clean Seas program has been removing plastic waste from the Whitsunday Islands for almost 10 years helping to save the lives of marine animals, as well as educating locals to reduce land-based litter in the tropical north.
Wendy Morris founded The Reef Society to promote stories of Great Barrier Reef creatures through art, photography and clothing, and many years ago also founded Reef Biosearch, the first marine biologist interpretive company to work commercially on the Great Barrier Reef, which became a prototype for eco-tourism operations.
Col McKenzie heads up the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (APMTO), which manages stewardship of the Reef. He and his wife Margie also manage the CoTS eradication program and have both been fighting for the Reef since the 1990s.
The newest program established to save the Reef is Citizens of The Great Barrier Reef, headed up by Andy Ridley, founder of Earth Hour, which aims to unite people across the globe with this one aim in mind.
And you can help too.
Here are the best ways you can help save our Great Barrier Reef for future generations.
1. Come and see the Reef
As Col McKenzie says; “Come and see why it’s worth saving! The more tourism dollars we spend on Great Barrier Reef operators the more funding will go to local projects actively working to conserve the Reef.”
By visiting the Reef you’ll see just how beautiful it is, and have a greater understanding why it needs your continued passion to save it.
2. Learn about the Reef
Most boats that take you to the outer reef have a marine biologist on board. Take advantage of the opportunity and ask as many questions as you like. Marine biologist Marie Taylor has been running educational programs for Reef Magic for many years. Marie has also engaged the local Indigenous community and incorporates the Reef’s spiritual story into her presentations.
Another way to learn about the Reef of, course, is to attend Reef Teach a two-hour evening presentation where you’ll learn everything about the Reef from how coral reefs form, the difference between soft and hard corals and how to identify fish.
Possibly the best way to learn more about the Reef is to visit Reef HQ in Townsville. In this aquarium and research centre, you’ll find the world’s largest living coral reef in an aquarium (it even has an annual spawning event). It’s positively bursting at the seams with information on how this complicated and biodiverse habitat works, the various threats to the Reef and what scientists are doing to save it.
3. Learn how to help
There are a several citizen science projects that you can contribute to. You can help to monitor the Reef’s health through Eye on the Reef, Coral Watch and ReefSearch.
Sign up for ReefSearch and you’ll be sent a field guide to show you how to contribute valuable data to scientists studying the Reef’s health, by spending 10 minutes of each dive, snorkel or reef walk, looking for key species, checking coral condition, and making note of any rubbish found.
Coral Watch is focussed on bleaching events, managed by the University of Queensland. Your Coral Watch kit comes with a colour-coded slate that helps you identify and record coral colours. You can then upload via an app to add to a global database.
Eye on the Reef is managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GRMPA). Download the Eye on the Reef app or log in online to report your sightings directly to them. A sighting can be anything a Reef user feels important enough to report and can include incidents like a bleaching event, Crown-of-thorns starfish, stranded or sick wildlife and coral damage.
There are three local projects that you can contribute to directly and be sure that 100% of your donation goes to saving the Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef Research Foundation, the Reef Rainforest Research Centre, and Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef are all set up for crowdfunding and you know all the money will go into GREAT Barrier Reef initiatives.
5. Become a Citizen of the Great Barrier Reef
Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef aims to connect people all over the world with one aim in mind – to save the Reef. It’s easy to become a Citizen, simply sign up, choose your colour and pick an ‘action’ to complete. This could be to:
- Bring your own bag
- Bring your own bottle
- Say no to straws
- Don’t leave leftovers!
- Carry your own cup
- Sponsor a CoTS diver
According to Andy, “as part of the Citizens community, every action you complete, no matter how small, will contribute to the combined impact of many. Through the cumulative effect of individual choices, we can achieve large-scale positive change.”
“The actions of people across the planet will define the future of the Reef.”
Keen to dive deeper into the reef?
- Discover 6 more ways to look after the reef
- Take part in all of the amazing experiences you can have on the reef with this bucket list
- Get closer to the reef with these eight sleep on the reef experiences
- Take a look at a day in the life of the Great Barrier Reef
- Interested in the science side of the reef? Check out this ultimate guide for budding marine biologists