Great Barrier Reef Recovery During Covid-19 Lockdowns

Reef Magic Cruises aids reef recovery on the Great Barrier Reef during Covid-19 lockdowns with MARRS Reef Stars

Great Barrier Reef tour operator Reef Magic Cruises has joined forces with Mars Incorporated to help with Great Barrier Reef recovery by using an innovative new reef-resilience program, installing 50 “Reef Stars” during Covid-19 lockdown.

An innovative new coral nurturing program, managed by the team at Reef Magic, uses a reef-resilience system developed by consumer goods giant Mars — yes, as in Mars Bars — called Mars Assisted Reef Restoration System (MARRS), part of their “Sustainable in a Generation Plan.”

Installing Reef Stars

MARRS Reef Stars
Reef Magic Mars Reef Stars site during installation (Image: Freda Nicholson)

Fifty MARRS Reef Stars were recently installed on Moore Reef, home to Reef Magic’s Marine World pontoon on the Great Barrier Reef, 25 miles (40 km) offshore from Cairns.

Installed by a team that includes Reef Magic’s marine biologists and local indigenous rangers, this system of Reef Stars is designed to assist the regrowth of coral on a section of the reef damaged by cyclone Yasi in 2011. The rubble left behind as a result of the cyclone has made it hard for new coral growth to find purchase, so the stars are designed to give the reef a helping hand by providing stable footing.

The team plans to install approximately 50 additional Reef Stars every six months, part of a 5-year scientific study with James Cook University to test the system’s effectiveness in stabilizing coral rubble resulting from the cyclone.

How are the Stars made?

MARRS Reef Stars
A healthy portion of Moore Reef as seen from Reef Magic Marine World Pontoon

Central to the MARRS, a Reef Star is a hexagonal, sand-coated steel structure that provides a stable base for coral fragments to grow. They have shown impressive results from earlier installations in the Indonesian province of Sulawesi, where coral cover at sites has increased from 10 percent to over 60 percent within just two years. There are now Reef Star installations in several countries across the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

“We are thrilled to be bringing the Reef Star system to Australia to help future-proof the health and biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef,” says Alicia McArdle, marine program manager for Mars Sustainable Solutions. “Our goal is to provide coral colonies with valuable time to adapt and increase their resilience at the same time as society seeks to reduce its emissions to reverse the impacts of climate change.”

Eric Fisher, Biology Manager at Reef Magic and GBR Biology, says the project is about boosting coral resilience and site stewardship: “This partnership is a great example of using the latest science to underpin our approach to sustainable tourism, and we are particularly pleased to trial this system for the first time in Australia.”

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