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