EX­PERT RATES AGIN­COURT REEF NO1 Over­all health: 10/10 Reef man­age­ment: 9/10 Species di­ver­sity: 6/10 Prospects for fu­ture: 7.5/10

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD KOSER

ONE of the world’s top ex­perts on co­ral reef con­ser­va­tion has de­scribed the Agin­court reef sys­tem as the best he has ever seen.

Dr Rod Salm vis­ited Agin­court last week and said it had bounced back re­mark­ably since his last visit nearly 40 years ago.

“As a con­ser­va­tion sci­en­tist, my fo­cus is dis­cov­er­ing as­pects that demon­strate re­silience to cli­mate change and I found a great deal of ev­i­dence that the co­ral at Agin­court are in a very pos­i­tive state,” Dr Salm said.

“In fact, the corals from the top of the reef down to a depth of five me­tres were as healthy and vi­brant as I’ve seen any­where with good colour, no dis­ease and ac­tive growth.”

Dr Salm, who was in Port Dou­glas last week for a ma­jor meet­ing on co­ral reef con­ser­va­tion, said the last time he saw Agin­court it had been trashed by Crown of Thorns starfish.

“In 1973, I worked with a group study­ing the COTS phe­nom­e­non,” he said.

“My strong mem­o­ries of Agin­court dur­ing that trip were a great deal of dead corals ion the wake of the starfish plague.

“It is hard to say why the reef is so healthy based on a quick visit of the mass tourism kind, but two things were very clear.

“The wa­ter qual­ity seemed very good and there were good quan­ti­ties of her­bi­vores, like par­rot­fishes and sur­geon fishes, that were brows­ing and scrap­ing away the bare rock sur­faces, keep­ing down the al­gae (which com­pete with corals) and con­di­tion­ing the sub­strate for co­ral set­tle­ment.”

Dr Salm said the man­age­ment sys­tem im­ple­mented by the Great Bar­rier Reef Ma­rine Park Author­ity was work­ing well.

“The GBR is very well man­aged com­pared to most other places, but I do un­der­stand from in­formed col­leagues that the in­shore reefs are re­ally suf­fer­ing badly from agri­cul­tural run-off.,” he said.

“The Agin­court reef is a clear in­di­ca­tion that ’no take’ or green zones work to pro­tect reef fishes.

“We saw an im­pres­sive num­ber of fishes, par­tic­u­larly those that are nor­mally rare be­cause they are fished out, like the red or bo­har snap­per, par­rot­fishes and groupers.”

Dr Salm said the Quick­sil­ver pon­toon was an im­pres­sive demon­stra­tion of mass tourism.

“I have seen mass tourism but none any­where near the quan­tity at Agin­court man­aged by Quick­sil­ver,” he said.

“I thought the Quick­sil­ver man­age­ment of the hordes they took out and the whole con­cept of the plat­form was re­ally an ef­fec­tive way to man­age the many peo­ple want­ing to get out there and fo­cus the ef­fort on one area.”

On the job: co­ral reef ex­pert Rod Salam at Agin­court Reef on the week­end

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