HOW ECOTOURISM AUSTRALIA MEMBERS HELP THE REEF
It makes good business sense to preserve the place in which you work. For our members, protecting their local environment means that not only will their visitors get an amazing experience, but also that they’ll be able to operate sustainably in years to come.
To celebrate the International Year of the Reef and the launch of our Year of the Reef campaign, we thought we’d give you a little inspiration and show you what some of our members are doing to help protect, preserve and positively promote our reefs.
Supporting a local environmental organisation
Keeping the reef and beaches pristine is critical for tourism. Important conservation actions can be challenging for one tourism operator alone. They may be more powerful when a local environmental organisation takes the lead.
Advanced Ecotourism certified operator Cruise Whitsundays and Ecotourism certified Cumberland Charter Yachts know that. They participate in projects run by the not-for-profit organisation Eco Barge Clean Seas to protect the marine life and aquatic environment from marine debris in the Whitsundays region.
Donations to environmental projects
Sometimes, tourism operators don’t have the resources to participate in projects or run their own conservation program. The easiest way to support conservation can be via donations.
For example, Orpheus Island Lodge, a luxury Great Barrier Reef all-inclusive accommodation, shows their passion for preserving the reef by donating $50 per guest stay to their environmental fund, Reef Keepers. Reef Keepers then distribute the money to organisations that they believe have the most significant impact in protecting the Great Barrier Reef.
Creating a conservation program
More than 80% of plants and mammals and 45% of birds in Australia cannot be found anywhere else in the world. It’s essential for the environment, and for tourism, to protect this biodiversity. Unfortunately, many native species are at risk as human activities threaten their habitats in many ways. Ecotourism Australia certified operators are careful with the impacts of their development, and some go further by creating their own conservation programs.
For example, on Ningaloo Coast in Western Australia, Gnaraloo Station took a strong commitment to protecting the third largest loggerhead turtle population in the world. By staying at Gnaraloo, a percentage of what you pay goes to support The Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program.
Some changes to the environment are natural; some changes are anthropogenic (or human-induced). Ongoing research and monitoring are fundamental to understanding and fighting the challenges and issues that the reef faces. Tourism businesses can be well-positioned to provide marine observations and combine tourism, education and research.
On the Great Barrier Reef, Quicksilver Connections founded their environmental division in 1986 - Reef Biosearch. Since then, this division has become the largest team of privately employed marine biologists outside of a government agency and participated in many important research projects to protect the Reef.
Reef HQ Aquarium in Townsville contributes to scientific research by enabling research institutions and partners to use their facilities. Their large marine tanks are ideal research platforms for experimental setups.
Sometimes, tourism operators roll up their sleeves and directly act on the field to protect the reef environment.
For example, Lady Musgrave Experience regularly monitor and organise culling crown-of-thorns starfish. The outbreaks of these coral-eating starfish occur naturally. However, with corals now facing many other threats, crown-of-thorns may kill coral faster than it can grow. It’s at these times that manual control can be a solution to save a reef that wouldn’t recover otherwise.
Reef Magic Cruises dive staff members get their hands dirty when they spot marine litter. The scuba divers regularly undertake a scheduled underwater litter sweep around the Cairns pontoon.
Protecting the reef does not stop at the marine environment. Biodiversity as a whole is vital for coastal environments. Ningaloo Coral Bay Boats planted over 3,000 trees to attract birds and butterflies and ensure surrounding areas remain in their pristine condition.
We hope that these activities have given you some inspiration on all the great ways tourism operators – and their guests – can help to protect our valuable reefs.
[Cover image: Reef Magic Cruises]