The Reef Restoration Foundation are tickled pink at the sight of thousands of tiny pink bundles of eggs and sperm, which erupted from Australia’s first offshore nursery at Fitzroy Island.
The branching acropora corals spawned for the first time ever just a few days ago, much to the delight of the not-for-profit Reef Restoration Foundation, who planted the corals just four years ago in 2018.
This coral nursery was the first of this kind in Australia and was produced after the Great Barrier Reef Authority granted a permit for a pilot research offshore nursery, which was erected off Welcome Bay on Fitzroy Island.
Coral spawning on the Great Barrier Reef is a natural phenomenon and happens for just a few days each year after the November full moon.
The spawning was recorded by three marine biologists, including Master Reef Guide Azri Saparwan, who helped to plant the corals in 2018. He says,
We planted coral cuttings in a degraded patch of reef and these pioneer species have grown to around 1m in diameter helping to create a healthy and complex habitat for various corals and marine life. Watching our coral babies reproduce for the first time to create the next generation of corals was a beautiful and humbling experience.
Photo by Calypso Productions
The coral nursery is just one of several on the Great Barrier Reef in Tropical North Queensland, with the Reef Restoration Foundation owning two further nursery sites on the outer reef on Hastings and Moore reefs.
Cameron Bee, who is part of the Great Barrier Reef Legacy’s Living Coral Biobank project, believes that the coral nurseries are integral to reef restoration. He says,
We are facilitating reef recovery in a time when disturbances are more frequent and severe. Growing corals to create habitat is important but additionally taking them through to spawning is a milestone in our bid to maintain biodiversity.
The coral spawning at Fitzroy Island was part of a larger coral spawning event that took place over the Great Barrier Reef in Tropical North Queensland in the past week. A variety of reef restoration projects were implemented to ensure that as much of the spawn successfully develops into coral. For example, Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef set up floating “Coral Spawn Pools” to capture and hold spawn until it grows into larvae, before transferring it to another reef site.