The staff of one Australian dive tour operator, Passions of Paradise, have volunteered to give the ocean some extra care and attention by planting coral on the Great Barrier Reef after the family-owned Cairns business stopped running tours in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Chief Executive Officer Scott Garden said that the company had donated their state-of-the-art catamaran Passions III and fuel to take four enthusiastic crew and a scientist to Hastings Reef for the Coral Nurture Program.
Mr. Hosp and Passions of Paradise marine biologist Kirsty Whitman, who are both Master Reef Guides, are keen to help advance the project as volunteers while the business is closed.
It is the first time on the Great Barrier Reef that tourism operators have worked alongside researchers and the first time that a coral clip has been used to attach corals to the reef.
It involves finding fragments of opportunity, coral fragments that have naturally broken off, and attaching them back on to the reef using a coral clip. We can only use fragments of opportunity found at the site, so Passions of Paradise has installed six frames at the site which can be used as a nursery to grow more corals.
Once they find a coral fragment they attach it to the nursery to grow and as it grows they can take fragments from it to attach to the reef giving them a continual source of new corals. The 12-month project finishes next month, however, the operators can continue to operate the nurseries and outplant the corals.
Mr. Garden said about 1000 pieces of coral had been planted on Hastings Reef.
When tours resume passengers will be able to snorkel over the site which boasts healthy marine life and corals near the nursery.