Ocean Rafting Master Reef Guides James Unsworth and Taylor Chin-Siang Chen with a data logger.
Ocean Rafting Master Reef Guides James Unsworth and Taylor Chin-Siang Chen with a data logger.

Water quality program back in action

AN IMPORTANT water quality monitoring program aimed at preserving the Great Barrier Reef has been reignited.

Easing of COVID-19 restrictions has sparked a return to action for Whitsunday tour boat operators involved in the citizen science water quality project.

The partnership - built early in the year to kickstart a tourism-led water quality monitoring project in the Whitsundays - has been on hold but now some tourism operators are using their time to restart the water quality monitoring project.

Ocean Rafting undertook water sample collection in early May for the first time since the tourism industry shut down in March due to COVID-19 and Red Cat Adventures is due to undertake another trip this week.

While still observing all the guidelines, this means the water sampling and data logger maintenance is back on track according to executive secretary of the Whitsunday Charter Boat Industry Association Sharon Smallwood.

“We were devastated that the project had to be put on hold in March not long after James Cook University had delivered training in water quality monitoring techniques to 10 tourism staff, with crews from True Blue Sailing, Red Cat Adventures and Ocean Rafting successfully having undertaken the first solo monitoring trips,” she said.

“We are very grateful to the partners in this enterprise, and particularly Reef Catchments and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, for working with us to find a way to get the project back up and running despite COVID-19.

“The keenness of our operators to get back in the field shows their dedication to this, and other stewardship programs, through which we strive to protect and preserve our iconic Great Barrier Reef.”

Earlier this year, tourism operators, James Cook University and Reef Catchments kicked off the Whitsunday Blueprint for Tourism Operators water quality monitoring program by deploying data loggers and holding training sessions on how to take samples. Data from the program will help to shed light on water quality and reef health in the Whitsundays.

The project is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, and North Queensland Bulk Ports, with support from Reef Catchments, Whitsunday Charter Boat Industry Association, James Cook University, Mackay-Whitsunday-Isaac Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership and Whitsunday Bareboat Operators Association.

The participating tourism operators are Ocean Rafting, Red Cat Adventures, Southern Cross Sailing Adventures, Tallship Adventures and True Blue Sailing.


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