After gloomy news about coral bleaching on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef comes a bright spot: a survey of reefs off north Queensland has found an increase in the amount of coral. That’s despite the recent bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef.
The good news has arrived at the perfect time for Greening Australia and Virgin Australia, which have joined forces to help reduce soil erosion and help restore water quality on the Reef.
Virgin Australia has entered into a three-year partnership with Greening Australia, which has launched a new project, Reef Aid, aimed at reducing damage to the Reef as a result of soil erosion and subsequent poor water quality.
Yesterday, the Guardian reported encouraging news from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), whose scientists examined 12 reefs off the Townsville coast, between Northern Hinchinbrook and Cape Bowling Green.
AIMS found 11 reefs had continued to recover since being damaged by Cyclone Yasi in 2011 and they found coral cover on seven of the reefs had reached the highest levels since first being surveyed 30 years ago.
Meanwhile, the Greening Australia effort involves a public appeal to raise AUD 10 million over the next three years for the first stage of an estimated AUD 100 million major restoration project. The Australian Government Reef Trust will match private contributions dollar for dollar up to AUD 2 million.
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, a dedicated environmentalist as well as a flamboyant entrepreneur, joined the Chairman of Greening Australia, Gordon Davis, last week to launch the partnership and call on all Australians to get behind Reef Aid and help save one of Australia’s most precious icons.
“I have long been passionate about the health of the ocean, having spent many hours in and amongst its waves, particularly in Australia,” Branson said.
“Like me, Virgin Australia is passionate about doing what we can to help save one of the most complex and beautiful natural systems on earth, the Great Barrier Reef.
“Virgin Australia’s partnership with Greening Australia will make a real difference at halting soil erosion onto the Reef and improving water quality, but we also need your help.”
Yesterday, Virgin Australia marked World Oceans Day by fundraising at its major ports while pilots raised awareness of the issue with on-board announcements on flights over the Great Barrier Reef.
Chairman of Greening Australia Gordon Davis said over the last 150 years land clearance had created deep eroding gullies – some over 10 meters deep – in the Great Barrier Reef catchments.
“When it rains, plumes of sediment, pesticides and nutrients flow from land onto the Reef, choking fish and coral, creating algal blooms and weakening the marine ecosystem,” Davis said.
“Landholders are doing their best, but once it starts raining it’s impossible to stop the gullies eroding and sediment rushing onto the Reef.
“The restoration work will involve reshaping and re-vegetating gullies to stop the sediment at the source, as well as rebuilding coastal wetlands that act as kidneys, filtering out sediment before it reaches the Reef.
“With roughly 10 thousand hectares to be repaired, it’s a huge job that will take many years. Virgin Australia, together with the Australian Government and others, have thrown their weight behind the effort and now we need the rest of Australia to help out.”
To retain its world heritage status and meet the targets set in the Australian Government’s Reef 2050 Plan, the amount of sediment flowing onto the Great Barrier Reef must be reduced by 50 per cent by 2025. Reef Aid will make a significant contribution to this target.
“It’s been scientifically proven that the restoration techniques we intend to use can reduce the sediment being released from the eroding gullies by up to 75 per cent,” Davis said.
As the Official Airline of Greening Australia, Virgin Australia has made a three year commitment to support awareness and fundraising for Reef Aid such as:
- Flights to help scientists, field experts and volunteers working on Reef Aid;
- International media hosting and education;
- Ongoing coverage on Virgin Australia’s social media channels, in the Virgin Australia in-flight magazine and app Voyeur, on Virgin Australia’s In-Flight Entertainment System and to the six million members of Velocity Frequent Flyer;
- ‘Hands on’ support from Virgin Australia staff as part of the Coastal Wetland team volunteering group.
Edited by Peter Needham