Reef Conservation ~ Sustainable Tourism
The Great Barrier Reef and neighbouring Coral Sea are known to have the greatest collection of coral reefs on earth and visitors come from all parts of the world to experience the wonder of its waters, islands, corals, fish and birds and iconic species. Spirit of Freedom and Tusa Dive are even more privileged as the Great Barrier Reef is our home, our neighbouring environment and our place of work & recreation.
TUSA Dive and Spirit of Freedom are proud to be accredited as an Advanced Ecotourism Operator – the highest eco certification attainable in Australia, and are committed to providing a service that reflects our responsibility to contribute to the conservation of our Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and pass on this rich heritage to future generations. Our visitors have the opportunity to learn about and appreciate our marine environment.
Our Company’s actions to reduce carbon emission have been recognised through the Climate Action Certification Program with TUSA Dive and Spirit of Freedom awarded Certification as Climate Action Innovators. This accreditation recognises our company’s commitment to tackle Climate Change through implementing a range of emission reduction measures and by evaluating and measuring the business carbon footprint annually, utilising the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Carbon Emissions Calculator.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was declared in 1975. It was listed as a World Heritage Area in 1981 for its natural significance. The Great Barrier Reef is listed under all four natural World Heritage criteria for its outstanding universal value. It is one of the largest marine protected areas in the world encompassing 348,000 square kilometres, which is an area larger than Great Britain and about half the size of Texas. Under the World Heritage Convention, Australia has an international obligation to protect, conserve, present and transmit this magnificent area for future generations.
Visit UNESCO World Heritage Centre for more information
For the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to effectively manage such a huge and diverse area it has been divided into four sections. Each of these sections have zones which dictate what activities may be conducted in that area. On Spirit of Freedom and Tusa Dive we visit Green Zones, which are protected areas and are ‘No Take’ zones. Green Zones protect the biodiversity of these areas by protecting important breeding and nursery areas such as seagrass beds, mangrove communities, deepwater shoals and reefs.
In the near future the Coral Sea is due to be declared by the Commonwealth Government as the world’s largest Marine Park. The Australian Coral Sea region covers 989 842 square kilometres of Australian waters and seabed east of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, out to the edge of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Coral Sea conservation values are to be categorised and managed into zoning areas as listed by the IUCN.
Interesting Facts on the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest natural feature on earth, stretching more than 2,300 km from the northern tip of Queensland to just north of Bundaberg. It is in fact a collection of about 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands or cays. The Great Barrier Reef is a complex ecosystem, rich in biodiversity and provides habitats for a wide variety of plants and animals. It is home to approximately:
- 1,500 species of fish
- 360 species of hard corals
- One third of the world’s soft corals
- 4,000 species of molluscs (e.g shells)
- 1,500 species of sponge
- 800 species of echinoderms (starfish, sea cucumbers, sea urchins etc)
- 30 species of marine mammals (whales, dolphins, dugong etc)
- Six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles
The goal of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is to provide for the protection, wise use, understanding and enjoyment of the Great Barrier Reef in perpetuity through the care and development of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
What can visitors do to help protect the Reef?
When you are diving or snorkelling we encourage you to adopt the following practices:
- Move slowly and deliberately in the water, relax and take your time – avoid rapid changes in direction.
- Avoid making sudden or loud noises underwater.
- Avoid leaning on, holding onto, or touching any part of the reef.
- Photographers – please do not hold onto or touch the reef.
- Avoid touching the walls of semi-confined areas (for example, small swim throughs or overhangs) – never squeeze through a small area.
- Avoid kicking up and disturbing the sand, if you’re over a sandy area.
- Avoid touching any animals or plants.
- Avoid feeding fish.
- Stay more than one metre away from giant clams.
- Keep clear of free-swimming animals (such as turtles, whales, and sea snakes). In particular, you must not chase, ride, grab or block the path of these animals.
- Do not wear gloves as you are more likely to touch the coral.
- Do not collect any shells, coral or ‘souvenirs’, whether they are dead or alive.
- Avoid relocating any marine life – particularly when taking photos and filming.
- Collect all litter from the Reef, even that which isn’t yours.
Climate Change is currently presenting stresses on the marine environment including warming sea temperatures and ocean acidification. TUSA Dive and Spirit of Freedom are acting to reduce its carbon emissions and tackle Climate Change by:
- Minimising waste and recycling where possible
- Purchasing environmentally sustainable products whenever possible
- Measuring and tracking our Carbon Footprint via a credible carbon emissions calculator
- In 2014 invested $50,000 in the placement of 48 solar panels to power our Administration Office and workshop
- Choosing to purchase 10% of our electricity as Clean Energy or Green Power produced from renewable energy sources
- Renewing and servicing our vessels to maintain optimum fuel efficiency
- Not using toxic anti-foul and manually cleaning the hulls
- Equipping our vessels with a 2 stage waste water treatment plants
- Participating in Great Barrier Reef monitoring programs such as Reef Health Impact Surveys, Eye on the Reef, BleachWatch (Coral Bleaching) and COTS Watch (Crown of Thorns Starfish)
- Supporting fundraising initiatives by local conservation group Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre through the sale of T-shirts at the Tusa Dive retail store and by donating prizes to events or promotions organised by the Centre.
- Encouraging our visitors to participate in tackling Climate Change in their own environment.
Guests are provided with guidance regarding everyday sustainable practices such as utilising low energy bulbs and energy saving appliances and with information to enable them to measure and offset travel emissions through organisations such as Climate Friendly who provide emissions calculators for a range of activities and contribute to the growth of the renewable energy industry.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority 2000, Tourism Operator’s Handbook for the Great Barrier Reef, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville.