Reef Conservation ~ Sustainable Tourism
The Great Barrier Reef and neighbouring Coral Sea are known to have the greatest collection of coral reefs on earth. Visitors come from all over the world to experience the wonder of its waters, islands, corals, fish and birds and iconic species. We are privileged to have the Great Barrier Reef in our backyard and as our place of work and recreation.
Spirit of Freedom is proud to be accredited as an Advanced Ecotourism Operator. This is the highest eco certification attainable in Australia, and shows we provide 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 emissions have been recognised through the Climate Action Certification Program, being certified as a Climate Action Business. This accreditation recognises our company’s commitment to tackle climate change by implementing a range of emission reduction measures, and by evaluating and measuring our carbon footprint.
Acknowledgement of Country
Jiigurru (Lizard Island) is traditionally owned by the Dingaal people, whose ancestors have a long and complex history within the region. Spirit of Freedom acknowledges this deep connection of the Dingaal people to land and sea country and would like to acknowledge their elders past, present and emerging.
About the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was declared in 1975. It was listed as a UNCESCO World Heritage Area in 1981 for its natural significance. The 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. This is an area larger than Great Britain, or 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.
For the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to effectively manage such a huge and diverse area it has been divided into four sections. These contain zones which dictate what activities may be conducted in that area. On Spirit of Freedom 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 about 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 approximately 3,000 individual reefs and 1,050 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:
- 1,625 species of fish
- 360 species of hard corals
- One third of the world’s soft corals
- More than 3,000 species of mollusc
- 1,500 species of sponge
- 800 species of echinoderms (starfish, sea cucumbers, sea urchins etc)
- 30 species of marine mammals (whales, dolphins, dugongs 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?
While 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.
- Do not touch, lean on or hold onto any part of 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.
- Do not touch any animals or plants or relocate them in anyway – particularly when taking photos and filming.
- 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.
- Collect all litter from the reef, even that which isn’t yours.
Climate change has a negative effect on the marine environment, including warming sea temperatures and ocean acidification. Spirit of Freedom is 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
- Running our administration office and workshop with solar power
- 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 two-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 the Minke Whale Project by hosting researchers on board, encouraging donations from our guests and through t-shirt sales on board
- Encouraging our visitors to participate in tackling climate change in their own environment.
- We also provide our guests with guidance on everyday sustainable practices, such as utilising low energy bulbs and energy saving appliances, measuring and offsetting their travel emissions through organisations such as Climate Friendly.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority 2000, Tourism Operator’s Handbook for the Great Barrier Reef, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville.