BE PART OF THE SOLUTION, NOT THE PROBLEM
What have you heard about the Great Barrier Reef? If we hazard a guess, there’s a good chance it was bad news. Our media, as much as we love it and learn from it, seems to enjoy focusing on the problems when it comes to the reef – coral bleaching, climate change impacts, the dying reef, overfishing – the list goes on. But what we don’t get to hear much about is what people are doing to protect the reef, and to conserve it for future generations. In this article we want to share just some of these things – plus give you some easy ways to get involved and be part of the solution.
1. Get the facts straight
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) is the Australian Government body responsible for the management of the reef. Their website is the best place to go for reef facts, accurate information about the state of the reef and a background on what strategies are currently in place to manage this national icon. GBRMPA also has heaps of ways for people to get involved and become citizen scientists – check out their programs and projects page to learn more.
2. When travelling, choose tourism businesses that are doing the right thing
Tourism businesses that are independently certified by either Ecotourism Australia or EarthCheck are recognised as upholding high standards of protection, presentation and partnership within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Check this list to ensure you’re choosing a tourism operator that is operating at a best practice standard. When you’re on the reef, pay attention to your guides – they’re trained to help you best understand the local ecosystems and can clarify what behaviours will protect or damage the reef. Oh, and they’ll tell you the best places to see marine creatures too – they know the underwater world better than most!
3. Volunteer your time
If you like getting your hands dirty, organisations like Eco Barge Clean Seas Inc. run regular marine debris removal trips to bays and beaches in the Whitsunday Region. On average, a group of 10 volunteers will remove around 300kg of marine debris per day trip, though the organisation also runs a four-day southern island expedition. If you’re keen to get involved, visit the Eco Barge Clean Seas website or chat to their Ecotourism Australia certified partners, Cruise Whitsundays and Cumberland Charter Yachts.
4. Think outside the box
You don’t need to be in the water to help protect the Great Barrier Reef. In fact, you don’t even need to be at the reef at all! Conservation Volunteers Australia’s One Reef program uses a wetlands and catchment approach to repair and reinstate priority wetlands and catchments of the Great Barrier Reef. These wetlands will absorb pollutants, trap sediments and cycle nutrients before they enter the creeks and rivers that would otherwise deliver these detrimental substances to the reef. To find out more or to donate, visit the One Reef website.
5. Hang Ten and Take Three
If you’re out surfing, lazing on the beach or well, anywhere really, pick up three pieces of rubbish, snap a photo and tag #Take3fortheSea to contribute to reducing Australia’s plastic footprint and inspire others to do the same. Take 3 is an Australian not-for-profit organisation committed to reducing plastic pollution and promoting the transition to a circular economy through education and participation. Check out their website and Instagram to find out more, and start contributing to this easy cause today. Of course, you don’t have to stop at three pieces of rubbish either!
6. Sip, don’t suck.
The Last Straw on the Great Barrier Reef is a campaign aiming to change the culture around unnecessary plastic straw use, from consumers to venues. That’s because mass plastic use is a huge problem, contributing to landfill and with disastrous impacts on ocean ecosystems, including precious marine life. Plastic straws, whilst small, are an unnecessary convenience with a big impact. If you’ve had a drink anywhere in North Queensland, you may have already come across one of the 335 venues (including lots of Ecotourism Australia Certified businesses!) that have signed the Last Straw pledge so far, and are no longer offering plastic straws to their customers. If you want to be ahead of the game, refuse a straw whenever you’re offered one (even if the venue hasn’t signed the pledge), or buy your own reusable steel straw here.
We hope that the above has inspired you to take action and be part of the solution. Have we missed some great initiatives? Let us know!
[Header image: James Vodicka / Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Facebook]