Scientists, Traditional Owners and conservationists come together in ‘The Reef Cooperative’

To mark World Oceans Day, Cotton On Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Cotton On Group, has committed $2 million to co-launch a world-first conservation project, ‘The Reef Cooperative’.

The new initiative, coordinated by Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, brings together Traditional Owners Yirrganydji Land and Sea Rangers, James Cook University reef scientists, reef restoration experts Mars Sustainable Solutions and leading tourism operator GBR Biology.

Through the collaborative partnership, conservation efforts will be scaled up on the Great Barrier Reef, with Hastings Reef on Yirrganydji Sea Country, near Cairns, chosen as the first restoration site.

Seed and grow – JCU leads coral larvae project

Under The Reef Cooperative, James Cook University TropWATER Centre will lead the Coral Larval delivery program to help degraded reefs recover and replenish by seeding and growing new corals.

The project will see the delivery of 30 million coral larvae over three years on Hastings Reef, and other reefs, during the annual Great Barrier Reef mass coral spawning event.

Project lead JCU TropWATER’s Dr Katie Chartrand said the project would help to spur coral growth and boost local reef recovery.

“Climate change has resulted in more frequent marine heatwaves and cyclone damage combined with other impacts like crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks – these repeated events are making it harder for damaged reefs to recover,” she said.

“This coral larval project is all about giving struggling reefs a better chance at recovering by boosting the number of available coral larvae for natural settlement.”

The project involves collecting coral spawn during the Reef’s annual spawning event and relocating the larvae to damaged reefs.

“The Reef Cooperative is an example of science, traditional owners, and industry partners delivering ground-breaking programs that could make a big difference to the recovery and resilience at key sites on the Great Barrier Reef,” Dr Chartrand said.

“This conservational model is designed to build resilience to damaged areas using a scientific approach while enabling greater capacity for traditional owners and tourism partners to share their perspectives and knowledge.”

The Reef Cooperative – projects for the next three years 

The three-year funding commitment will see the launch of The Reef Cooperative to deliver a major conservation program at degraded reefs with multiple projects interwoven to have greater collective impact.

In addition to JCU’s coral larvae project, 700 MARRS reef stars will be installed to aid in reef recovery, starting with the 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.

Hastings Reef and other subsequent sites chosen as part of The Reef Cooperative will be maintained by Yirrganydji Sea Rangers or other Traditional Owners of their Sea Country. The rangers and Traditional Owners will engage tourists in reef conservation and protection with weekly tourism visits through Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel.

The Great Reef Census – a Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef initiative – will also be scaled up to survey the far reaches of the 2,300km Great Barrier Reef, both in-water and recruiting citizen scientists worldwide to help analyse the tens of thousands of Census images.

Andy Ridley, CEO of Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef said the scale of the $2 million investment from Cotton on Foundation for The Reef Cooperative allows for a rapid delivery of tangible conservation actions.

“With collaboration at its heart, The Reef Cooperative is designed to deliver highly scalable practical conservation outcomes on reefs across the 2,300km Great Barrier Reef and beyond.”

Tim Diamond, GM of Cotton On Foundation said the commitment, supported by a unique fundraising model in partnership with customers, will support an incredible collective of minds and organisations working directly on the Great Barrier Reef to address the issue of coral reef loss in the face of climate change and severe weather events.

“The conservation model is unique and through its focus on community, innovation, and knowledge sharing it has proven to transform one of the great environmental challenges in our own backyard. At Cotton On Foundation, we are proud to support Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef and this game-changing initiative.”

New partnership unlocks largest blue carbon restoration project in Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef catchment

Coles and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation have announced a 10-year, $10 million partnership to help strengthen the regeneration and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.

Under the new partnership, JCU TropWATER Centre is leading a major coastal habitat restoration project – and it will be the largest blue carbon project to date in Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef catchment.

Led by Dr Nathan Waltham, TropWATER’s Principal Research Scientist, the project will work with farmers to reinstate significant coastal wetlands in the Great Barrier Reef catchment, restoring coastal habitats and serving as highly effective carbon sinks.

“The funding provides us the first opportunity to undertake large scale restoration in the Great Barrier Reef catchments, delivering outcomes for the reef, climate, biodiversity and water quality,” he said.

“Wide-scale loss of coastal wetlands and changing climate conditions means that we need to roll out major projects like this, and this funding is a start in helping us deliver ecosystem service returns for landholders, Traditional Owners of Country, industry and government agencies.”

Through the partnership, Coles will dedicate funds towards a number of innovative projects based on ‘blue carbon’ – the process of capturing and storing carbon in oceanic or coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses.

Thinus Keeve, Coles Chief Sustainability, Property and Export Officer said: “Coles is already making great strides in our Together to Zero emissions ambition and our partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation represents the latest phase in our commitment to show leadership on sustainability.”

“Our investment in the regeneration and revegetation of coastal ecosystems will help build the resilience of the Reef and deliver projects that can make a difference at a meaningful scale,” he said.

Chief Scientist of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said: “We need the best science to develop bold, innovative ideas to protect coral reef habitats and slow the impacts of climate change, which is the biggest threat to the survival of the Great Barrier Reef.

“In addition to tackling the root cause of climate change, we must make reefs more resilient to the impacts of climate change that are already locked into the system.

“Coles’ partnership in blue carbon projects with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation is a prime example of the way we all can be working together to help the Reef and all its living diversity now and into the future. It is terrific to see one of Australia’s corporate greats generously engaging to solve one of the greatest challenges facing Australia.”

Coles’ investment will commence with two pilot projects designed to unlock the Reef’s blue carbon potential, increase biodiversity, accelerate scientific research and support communities along the Reef.

In addition to Dr Waltham’s wetland restoration project, the partnership is also developing the first large-scale seagrass nursery in partnership with leading seagrass researchers and Traditional Owners of the Reef.

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