Australian-first project to restore key reefs off Port Douglas and Cairns



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A $1.7 million investment into the Cairns Port Douglas Reef Restoration Hub is hoped to restore priority reefs by 2030. Image: Franck Gazzola.

Efforts to protect and restore key coral reefs in the Port Douglas and Cairns region will receive a $1.7 million life injection through the creation of Australia’s first integrated Reef Restoration Hub.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) today announced the project as part of the ambitious plan to restore 100 priority reefs by 2030.

The new Reef Restoration Hub will connect the world’s largest coral reefs program led by marine science experts with the in-water local projects already underway in Cairns and Port Douglas to find new ways to protect coral reefs and the marine life that depends on them.

GBRF Managing Director Anna Marsden said, “Tourism operators, citizen scientists, community groups and locals who are already actively working to restore and rebuild the area’s precious reefs will have the opportunity to amplify their efforts and join forces with the cutting-edge science that we’re investing $100m in through the large-scale Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program.

“We’re already seeing the effects of climate change with our Reef weathering its third mass bleaching in just five years and the Cairns Port Douglas Reef Restoration Hub will play a key role in bringing together the innovative science and hands-on solutions needed to build its resilience,” Ms Marsden said.

“We’re investing $1.7m in the hub and local-scale projects which will give tourism operators, Traditional Owners and local groups the ability to expand their valuable role in championing Reef protection and connect with larger-scale restoration technology and research.”

Expressions of interest are now open for both local scale reef restoration projects and the Reef Restoration Hub Engagement Coordinator to be the central connection point for the program.

There will be a future dedicated opportunity for Traditional Owners to co-design projects, and funding available for these projects to be implemented.

Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef Warren Entsch said Far North Queensland is at the forefront when it comes to reef restoration projects.

“These important restoration projects will aim to help ensure our Reef can continue to be appreciated for generations to come.”

Ms Marsden said the Cairns Port Douglas Reef Restoration Hub will set the standard for a regional hub model that can be expanded to other regions.

“In pioneering Australia’s first integrated Reef Restoration Hub, the Foundation is bringing diverse groups together to collaborate and have a much greater impact on Reef health than they could working in isolation.”

Launching the Hub will add to the GBRF’s more than 60 Reef-saving projects that include the citizen science, Traditional Owner Reef protection and water quality improvement projects ongoing in the Cairns and Port Douglas region.

The Cairns Port Douglas Reef Restoration Hub is a collaboration between the GBRF and the Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program.

Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program Executive Director Dr Cedric Robillot said the program, beginning this year, will develop, test and risk-assess novel interventions to help sustain the Reef on a medium to large scale.

“This ambitious undertaking will require an all-in effort and we are delighted to be able share knowledge, and work in collaboration, with local scientists and reef restoration practitioners, as well as Reef Traditional Owners, industry and local communities through this hub,” he said.

Tourism Tropical North Queensland CEO Mark Olsen said the Great Barrier Reef has continued to inspire the world both to visit and conserve globally significant ecosystems.

“Tourism Tropical North Queensland, as the tourism voice for Cairns and Great Barrier Reef, is very supportive of the Hub initiative to bring tourism and science-led conservation sector even closer together,” he said.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said Australia is a world leader in reef science and reef management and that the work of the foundation in supporting the hub is another important step in the Australian Government’s $1.9 billion investment in protecting the reef.

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