It’s no secret that the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the world and Australia’s premier marine ecosystem has an uncertain future.
Earlier this week, it was revealed that 50% of the existing coral of the northern and central Great Barrier Reef is “dead or dying” and it’s not surprising considering 1.4 million tonnes of sediment, along with chemicals and fertilisers, pour into the Great Barrier Reef every year due to erosion from over clearing in the reef’s catchment. The daunting future of the largest living structure on Earth makes Virgin Australia’s latest partnership with Greening Australia a powerful initiative.
Earlier this morning, Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson announced that he would be entering into a 3-year partnership with the organisation, launching a new project to be known as Reef Aid. This initiative aims to reduce damage to the reef, which has been mostly caused by soil erosion and poor water quality. With the entire restoration estimated to cost around $100 million, Greening Australia is hoping to appeal to the nation and raise $10 million in the next three years in order to complete the first stage of the project.
Sir Richard first visited the reef with his children 20 years ago and has been particularly public about his desire to protect the natural wonder. “I have long been passionate about the wealth of the ocean, having spent many hours in and amongst its waves, particularly Australia,” Sir Richard told the crowd in Sydney. “Like me, Virgin Australia is passionate about doing what we can to help save one of the most complex and beautiful natural systems on earth, the Great Barrier Reef.” Not only is the Great Barrier Reef a World Heritage site – also boasting being one of the worlds of seven natural wonders – but it also injects over $5 billion through tourism into the country each year.
In line with World Oceans Day, Virgin will be spreading awareness by fundraising at major ports and making announcements as passengers fly over the reef. The first step in the project is to stabilise the land by planting vegetation in order to combat soil erosion which make it difficult for fish to breathe.
“When it rains, plumes of sediment, pesticides and nutrients flow from land onto the Reef, choking fish and coral, creating algal blooms and weakening the marine ecosystem,” Chairman of Greening Australia Gordon Davis explains. “The restoration work will involve reshaping and re-vegetating gullies to stop the sediment at the source, as well as rebuilding coastal wetlands that act as kidneys, filtering out the sediment before it gets to the Reef.”