What is the Reef Restoration Project?

The Great Barrier Reef is under threat and there is a perception worldwide that the reef is either dead or dying.  The Reef Restoration’s purpose is to create hope and optimism through undertaking practical, tangible and breakthrough solutions that will make positive improvements to the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

This not for profit social enterprise is establishing a series of offshore coral nurseries, starting at Fitzroy Island. This solution has been proven overseas and adapted to the Great Barrier Reef.  This process mimics nature and allows damaged reefs to re-open faster and increase resilience to future bleaching events.

We are very supportive of the launching of the Coral Restoration program here at Fitzroy Island. Our Resort has been, ever since we purchased the property in 2010, leaders in the field of protecting the coral reef and its inhabitants, including of course the Turtles. It is no coincidence that the very first step in developing coral restoration on the Reef is occurring at Fitzroy Island, where we have already established, a strong working relationship between the Resort, the Turtle Volunteers and the Cairns Dive Centre.

Click here to watch a video update of the Reef Restoration.


Fitzroy Island

Fitzroy Island is located is 29km south-east of Cairns, Queensland, Australia. It is a large tropical island, with a rainforest covering and its own fringe coral reef system and is a 45-minute Fitzroy Flyer ferry ride from Cairns.  The Island is surrounded by a reef system that forms part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The Island formerly had a giant clam farm located at Welcome Bay and there is now a tourist resort, camping area and turtle rehabilitation centre located on the island.

The Fitzroy Island Resort, in conjunction with the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and the Cairns Dive Centre, are a major sponsor of the Reef Restoration works, and we will continue providing them with support throughout the the restoration of the reef.

The pilot project commenced in December 2017 with six coral growing frames and we anticipate expanding this to twenty frames in 2018.  The project will operate for a minimum of three years under the permits that have been provided to operate the project.

How Does it Work?

  • The team collect small amounts of healthy corals that have survived the last two years of high temperatures – these corals should be naturally more resilient to higher water temperatures and coral bleaching.
  • The corals are collected and grown in an off-shore coral nursery on Fitzroy Island – the corals grow significantly faster in the nurseries than on the reef.
  • After 6-12 months, cuttings are taken from each of the growing corals. The cuttings are then planted to the Reef to grow and regenerate damaged sections of the reef and strengthen resilience.
  • The original corals remain in the nurseries to re-grow and the process becomes a continuous cycle.
  • From the initial cutting of coral, thousands of new corals can be created! This is a similar approach to taking cuttings from healthy plants to grow new plants.

Media Release – December 13th, 2017

Offshore coral nurseries a first for Great Barrier Reef

Live coral cuttings have been successfully harvested and planted in the first offshore nursery of its kind on the Great Barrier Reef in a bid to regenerate damaged areas of the world’s largest reef.

The Reef Restoration Foundation has the first permit within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to establish a pilot research offshore coral nursery at Fitzroy Island, near Cairns in Tropical North Queensland.

Foundation Chief Executive Officer Stewart Christie said the not-for-profit social enterprise had sought and obtained significant tourism industry and scientific support for the coral gardening and restoration research project.

“This week we have collected small amounts of healthy coral which, having survived the last two years of high temperatures, which should be naturally more resilient to coral bleaching. This coral has been attached it to six “coral tree” frames in a nearby offshore coral nursery at Fitzroy Island,” he said.

Corals in offshore nurseries have been shown to grow much faster allowing cuttings to be taken just six to 12 months later to be cemented on reefs to grow new coral and regenerate damaged sections.

“As coral cover across the Great Barrier Reef continues to decline, additional management approaches are required to assist the recovery of corals”, advised Professor Damien Burrows, James Cook University.

Led by the Reef Restoration Foundation, the project has strong tourism industry support with funding from Fitzroy Island Resort, Cairns Dive Centre, the volunteers at the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators and Gem Pearl. Researchers from James Cook University’s TropWATER and Reef Ecologic will be monitoring the performance of the coral nursery.

“The process adopted by Reef Restoration Foundation has been proven in other locations around the world including the Caribbean and Florida Keys.”

Mr Christie said that Reef Restoration Foundation would be seeking to expand to other suitable sites throughout the Great Barrier Reef in 2018.

Fitzroy Island Resort Director Doug Gamble said it was critical to invest in projects to protect the natural assets that local industry and the community relied upon.

“Investing in the offshore coral nursery is a tangible action that will make a positive difference to the health of the Great Barrier Reef and contribute to a better-quality experience for our guests.”

Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO) Executive Officer and Gem Pearl Director Col McKenzie said the innovative program would engage tourism operators, Reef visitors, and individuals and businesses with a connection to the Reef showing that small actions can create a big impact for the Reef’s future.

Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef Chief Executive Officer Andy Ridley said, “the Reef Restoration Foundation program demonstrated that direct intervention projects provide the Great Barrier Reef with a helping hand during a time of severe need. It is vital that we work together to undertake actions at both a local, reef wide and global scale that make a positive difference to ensuring the future health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef”.

Follow Reef Restoration Foundation on its journey in making positive improvements to the health of the Great Barrier Reef.www.facebook/reefrestorationfoundation.com

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Make a Difference

We anticipate being able to show the community the results of the efforts of our group of enthusiastic volunteers and to also provide them with an opportunity to get behind the Reef Restoration Foundation and others like them, including the opportunity to invest donations into these volunteer-based programs.

Give to Reef Restoration Foundation via the Fitzroy Island Resort and you will be contributing to undertaking practical coral restoration research projects that will regenerate high-value coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef. 

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