Underwater Reef cooling plan shelved

 

A PLAN to cool Great Barrier Reef corals using underwater turbines has been shelved indefinitely.

It has been more than two years since the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre announced its $2.2 million proposal to trial eight underwater turbines off Cairns in a bid to prevent coral bleaching on the Reef.

Severe coral bleaching on a mature staghorn coral on Moore reef, off the coast of Cairns in Far North Queensland. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Severe coral bleaching on a mature staghorn coral on Moore reef, off the coast of Cairns in Far North Queensland. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

The first of the solar-powered submerged propellers was to be installed at Moore Reef, about 40km offshore from the city, in early 2018.

The federally-funded project would have tested whether water mixing technology, currently used in freshwater storages such as Copperlode Dam, could reduce coral stress at a local level.

However, RRRC managing director Sheriden Morris said the "Reef Haven" program had since shifted more research and data-gathering focus for managing climate change refugia.

"We're not going to put the mixers in," Ms Morris said.

"We'll be working with the tourism industry, to find out what they think will be the best engineering response."

The RRRC has also been working with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation on hosting a major crown-of-thorns starfish control conference in Cairns in March.

Managing director of the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre Sheriden Morris
Managing director of the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre Sheriden Morris


The coral-eating starfish is considered by scientists as one of the worst biological threats to the Reef, blamed for 42 per cent of coral decline throughout the marine park.

The conference, which has attracted more than 100 domestic and international participants, will discuss the latest technology and methods to control the starfish.

Ms Morris said there was always room to improve on the current control program.

AMPTO divers clearing crown-of-thorns starfish. Picture: Daniel Schultz
AMPTO divers clearing crown-of-thorns starfish. Picture: Daniel Schultz

"Just like the plague locust commission has done for the control of plague locust in Australia, using really quite advanced, integrated pest management approaches, we're really following a similar line," she said.

"Except it hasn't been done in the marine environment before and there are a lot of variables we need to work with."



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