400 tonnes of coral bommies returned to the Reef after a cyclone

When Cyclone Debbie hit the Whitsunday Islands in 2017, it dislodged the massive Porites boulder corals that dot the popular dive site Manta Ray Bay, moving them up into the intertidal zone and reducing the bay’s reefs to rubble. Tourism Whitsunday chairman Al Grundy appealed to the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service for help and a joint operation between QPWS, GBRMPA and the tourism industry saw over 400 tonnes of bommies returned to the reef using heavy machinery. A rapid ecological survey conducted by James Cook University researchers sixteen months later found promising ecological recovery on the repositioned bommies, including thriving fish populations. Tourism visitation also resumed. These findings have recently been published in Ecological Management and Restoration led by Dr Ian McLeod at James Cook University as part of Tropical Water Quality Hub research on best practice coral restoration for the Great Barrier Reef Project 4.3. Al Grundy said the results were very encouraging. “It’s a high use tourism area so we’ve seen this economic benefit return to the region, also the private visits are back so there is that social benefit as well,” he said. “When it comes to reefs, sitting on our hands just isn’t an option anymore.”