Earlier this month, Cotton On Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Cotton On Group committed $2 million to Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef to co-launch a world-first conservation project: The Reef Cooperative.
The Reef Cooperative, coordinated by Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, brings together Traditional Owners Yirrganydji Land and Sea Rangers, reef scientists from James Cook University, reef restoration experts Mars Sustainable Solutions and leading tourism operator GBR Biology.
The Great Barrier Reef is under threat from several directions, the largest of which is climate change, with some areas remaining pristine and others affected by mass bleaching, the latest of which took place in March of this year, as well as cyclones and crown-of-thorns starfish. What is clear is that the Great Barrier Reef needs our help. The new project will bring together the brightest minds working on the Great Barrier Reef, to build a holistic reef restoration program on Yirrganydji Sea Country near Cairns.
Andy Ridley, CEO of Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef says, “In parallel with a massive reduction in global emissions, there is now an urgent need to massively scale up reef conservation efforts to address the accelerating impacts of climate change.”
Tim Diamond, GM of Cotton On Foundation says, “Our $2 million commitment, will support an incredible collective of minds and organisations who are working directly on the Great Barrier Reef to address the issue of coral loss in the face of climate change.”
Gavin Singleton from Yirrganydji Land and Sea Rangers, the Traditional Owners of Yirrganydji Sea Country where Hastings Reef is located said, “A massive cooperative effort across the reef bringing together different knowledge systems can give us a bigger and better picture of its health and priorities. With Hastings Reef located on our Sea Country, we are looking forward to sharing the learnings of The Reef Cooperative with other Traditional Owner groups who manage their own Sea Country across the Reef.”
With this three-year funding commitment, The Reef Cooperative aims to deliver a major conservation program in the water, including:
700 MARRS reef stars over three years, starting with the installation of 250 at Hastings Reef. These stars are a ground-breaking restoration technology that will provide a stable base for coral fragments to grow on damaged sections of the reef.
The delivery of 30 million coral larvae over three years on Hastings and other reefs during the Great Barrier Reef spawning period, helping to spur coral growth and boosting recovery (delivered by James Cook University scientists).
Hastings Reef and other subsequent sites chosen as part of The Reef Cooperative will be maintained by Yirrganydji Sea Rangers or other Traditional Owners on their Sea Country, and will engage tourists in reef conservation and protection with weekly tourism visits through Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel.
Scale up the Great Reef Census to survey the far reaches of the 2,300km Great Barrier Reef, both in-water and recruiting citizen scientists around the world to help analyse the tens of thousands of Census images.
Mars Sustainable Solutions, part of Mars Incorporated, provides The Reef Cooperative with access to MARRS Reef Stars. Alicia McArdle, Marine Program Manager at Mars Sustainable Solutions says, “Implementing MARRS Reef Stars on Hastings Reef with a specialised team of scientists, Traditional Owners, conservationists, business and tourism operators will help us build upon the success of the program and better understand how the technology can be used to deliver a reef restoration program to sites across the Great Barrier Reef and globally.”
Eric Fisher, GBR Biology Manager says, “As The Reef Cooperative progresses, we will be engaging tourists in the conservation model at Hastings and other nearby reefs through immersive tourism experiences that encourage a personal relationship to, and understanding of, the Great Barrier Reef.”
James Cook University will lead the Coral Larval delivery program, which assists in reef restoration by seeding and growing new corals. Dr Katie Chartrand from James Cook University said, “This conservation model will see a blend of approaches designed to build resilience and conserve and restore damaged areas of some of the reefs most in need.”