ALIVE AND KICKING
Tourism operators refute reports of mass damage to reef
SOCIAL media posts and news coverage highlighting the ongoing detrimental effects of Cyclone Debbie to the Great Barrier Reef have caused concern among some Whitsunday tour operators who are worried people will lose hope in the reef.
Red Cat Adventures sales and marketing manager Chloe Autridge said she had seen images online of people snorkelling amid brown water “which is absolutely not what it’s like at the moment”.
She said her tour company had received calls from people wanting to check if they should bother coming to the Whitsundays which was “quite detrimental”.
“We are back up and running. There was damage sustained, but there’s so many snorkelling spots… the ones that weren’t sheltered were affected, but we’ve gone out and searched and been really successful in finding new sites,” she said.
Ms Autridge said although there were a lot of negative stories after the cyclone it was important to regain hope, stick together as a community and help each other.
Manager of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Eye on the Reef program, Fiona Merida, said surveys of damage to reefs had shown surprising results, as one part of the reef could be completely affected, while 300 metres away there would be an area untouched by the cyclone.
Her program aimed to identify sites which still provided beautiful coral so these areas could be given good protection for regeneration and also for tourists to visit.
The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) was also busy during June, looking at 13 offshore reefs in the Whitsundays to determine the extent and severity of damage from Cyclone Debbie.
Manager of operations support in the field management unit for GBRMPA, Mark Read, concurred the damage was patchy, so while some parts of the reef had lost coral, other parts of the same reef were left with live coral that was unharmed.
“And that’s certainly what they found when they looked at those 13 reefs offshore from the Whitsundays,” he said.
Mr Read added it was important to concentrate on the overall resilience of the reef and factors we could control such as water quality, zoning, protection from the crown-of-thorns starfish, collaboration with tour operators, and controlling fishing.
Ocean Rafting owner Jan Claxton agreed.
“We lost some of our favourite snorkel spots which were completely devastated. But now we’ve found tracks of coral that you wouldn’t even know had been through a cyclone,” she said.
Full story and photos at whitsundaytimes.com.au
FULL OF LIFE: A visitor with Red Cat Adventures enjoying a positive reef expreience post Cyclone Debbie.
NOW: A snorkeller and (inset) Elmer Ten-Haken conducting reef health impact surveys.