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Mars Coral Reef

Launching: The Reef Cooperative

On World Oceans Day, a world-first conservation effort was launched across the Great Barrier Reef; bringing together Traditional Owners, scientists, restoration experts, business and tourism operators to form a new restoration model: ‘The Reef Cooperative’.

In June 2022, Cotton On Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Cotton On Group, announced a $2 million, three-year funding commitment to Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef to co-launch a novel conservation effort; ‘The Reef Cooperative’. This restoration model will bring together unique cross-sector partners to scale up conservation efforts across the Great Barrier Reef.

With collaboration at the core and coordinated by Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, The Reef Cooperative brings together reef scientists from James Cook University, Yirrganydji and Gunggandji Land and Sea Rangers, leading tourism operator GBR Biology and our Mars Sustainable Solutions team. Each facet of The Reef Cooperative brings a unique approach and resource to restoration, that when shared, can maximise conservation efforts to drive outcomes on the reef.

Dreamtime staff with Traditional Owners Yirrganydji Land and Sea Rangers (Credit: Brad Fisher _ Ikatere Photography)

The initiative will pilot a scalable, effective reef restoration program on Yirrganydji Sea Country, near Cairns. The first site to be restored is Hastings Reef, a site with significant cultural and socio-economic importance and a history of damage from cyclones and bleaching. The site will be restored through an integrated approach, utilising both reef stars and millions of reseeded coral larvae. Reef stars will be used to rebuild reef on rubble patches, whilst millions of coral larvae will be delivered during the Great Barrier Reef spawning period to spur coral growth. Following the restoration at Hastings Reef, The Reef Cooperative will scale up to two further nearby reefs, sharing knowledge with other Traditional Owners.

With the program securing a funding commitment from Cotton On Foundation, alongside the shared knowledge and resources of The Reef Cooperative; it will deliver the following conservation aims:

  • Deploy 700 MARRS reef stars over three years with an initial installation of 200 at Hastings Reef.
  • Maintain selected reef sites through the stewardship of Yirrganydji Sea Rangers and other Traditional Owners on their Sea Country.
  • Over three years, during Great Barrier Reef spawning period, deliver 30 million coral larvae on Hastings and other reefs.
  • Connect tourists to reef conservation and protection through weekly tourism visits through Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel.
  • Scale up the Great Reef Census to survey the far reaches of the 2,300 km Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the richest and most complex natural ecosystems in the world, but is coming under escalating threat from multiple directions, including the impact of climate change. There is an urgent need to scale up effective and innovative reef conservation efforts to meet the growing urgency of global coral reef degradation. Through the novel partnerships of The Reef Cooperative, we hope to deliver large-scale, practical restoration, possible of replenishing and reviving the reefs across the Great Barrier Reef and beyond.