Reef Restoration – Fitzroy Island


In December 2017, Reef Ecologic were instrumental in supporting the Reef Restoration Foundation in the establishment of the first coral nurseries on the Great Barrier Reef at Fitzroy Island, Cairns

In  collaboration with a team of volunteers, local businesses, organisations and researchers established the first coral nursery on the Great Barrier Reef. The project was implemented in the shallow fringing reef around Fitzroy Island, 25km east of Cairns. Six coral nursery trees were successfully deployed just offshore from Welcome Bay, at Bird Rock in a depth of 14m. The deployment was challenging as the project had a small budget and relied on volunteers for many tasks. The development and implementation resulted in many lessons learned and potentially represents a first step in a process to extensively utilising local-scale reef restoration projects to support the health and resilience of local reefs across the Great Barrier Reef.

Reef Ecologic’s Dr Adam Smith guiding volunteers in preparation of the coral trees.
Coral fragment placed on the tree, measured, tagged and ready for ongoing monitoring
Tagged donor colony to be monitored for ongoing condition.
A newly planted coral fragment hanging from the coral nursery tree.

The establishment of a new project is never easy, especially when involving volunteers and people with limited experience in the field. Corals were effectively and efficiently collected and transferred to the beach where they remained immersed. Our methods and processes became incrementally more efficient with each day. Relying on local businesses and volunteers to support such a project also adds challenging logistical elements. However, including local businesses and volunteers likely has other benefits such as increasing local knowledge and by-in to GBR conservation and restoration activities. Except for the first day when we had access to a suitable support tender, the project was reliant on vessel support from tourism operators subject to the limitations of their daily work schedule, which coincided with a peak visitation at the commencement of summer school holidays. Having a dedicated vessel for future work will increase deployment efficiency and having access to suitable in-water working platforms for cutting and tagging coral would also increase productivity.  However, this is reliant on having sufficient budget and resources.

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In December, 2017, Reef Ecologic joined the Reef Restoration Foundation and a suite of partners in setting up the Great Barrier Reef’s first coral nursery. In January a group of volunteers helped conduct maintenance and observation of the corals.

With thanks to key partners