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Helping the Great Barrier Reef: What can we do? What should we do?

Helping the Great Barrier Reef: What can we do? What should we do?

The world’s most innovative options for strengthening the Great Barrier Reef’s resilience will be explored by scientists, engineers, marine park managers, tourism operators, community leaders and youth, in an international gathering in Cairns next week.

The Great Barrier Reef Restoration Symposium, July 16-18, will bring together more than 200 experts and stakeholders from around the world, to share reef restoration successes, cutting edge research and thinking.

The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) has suffered greatly from major disturbances such as back-to-back coral-bleaching events, predicted to escalate with climate change.

Symposium Convenor, James Cook University’s Professor Damien Burrows, who is also National Environmental Science Program’s Tropical Water Quality Hub leader, said innovative solutions were needed in addition to greenhouse gas mitigation and existing reef management.

“There are some promising restoration methods that could be applied to coral reefs and their local environments,” he said.

“The conversation we haven’t had yet is around social licence: the Great Barrier Reef is significant to Australians for different reasons, from spiritual and ecological importance, to recreation, economic contribution and livelihoods.

“Nothing we do to help save the reef will be a perfect solution – or risk free – so we need to understand the will and priorities of the people: be they ecologists, tourism or fishing industry, Traditional Owners or the general community.”

Australian Institute of Marine Science executive director, and Reef Restoration and Adaption Program director, David Mead said the challenge in designing effective reef restoration techniques was two-fold.

“We need to identify and develop new technology that shows great promise – for it to become viable, and we need to develop methods to affordably scale-up the technology for a significant positive impact,” he said.

“I think people will be surprised by the new and innovative solutions being considered.”