Breakthrough mapping technology is said to be providing new levels of understanding of the Great Barrier Reef and helping target Reef strategies with even greater accuracy.
Jointly developed through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the University of Queensland, the new technology combines satellite imagery and underwater mapping to create what are claimed to be the most detailed biological terrain maps of the Reef to date.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is already employing the data to prioritise crown-of-thorns starfish control, with future applications including improved understanding of the ways individual reefs connect, their exposure to major weather events and new baseline data on the Reef’s diverse range of marine habitats.
Data being generated will directly assist the authority in planning permit assessments, as well as with on-water management.
“The Great Barrier Reef is the best managed reef system in the world and this breakthrough is a perfect example of science informing Reef management,” Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley said.
Building a clearer picture of the Reef
“Thousands of individual satellite images are producing a high-resolution picture of the offshore Reef, making how we look at individual reefs easier, clearer, and more accurate.”
Warren Entsch, an MP and Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, said that new mapping technology would be an important tool in targeting the extensive on-water programs that exist to protect the reef.
“This information enables us to better understand habitat types on some of these remote reefs, and the ways cyclones and physical damage from predatory starfish may impact resilience,” he explained.
Lead scientist on the Habitat Mapping Project, Dr Chris Roelfsema, and his team from the University of Queensland, developed the maps in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Marine Science and EOMAP Ltd for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
“We are delighted to collaborate on this work with the Authority to bring together field knowledge, high quality satellite imagery and improved mapping and modelling methodologies,” Dr Roelfsema said.
More Reef patrols to deter illegal fishing
Meanwhile, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority announced last week that day and night compliance patrols across the Reef have been ramped up as part of an ongoing effort to deter illegal fishing and help protect the marine environment.
Director for Operations, Chris Cochrane, said compliance patrols in the air and on the water could detect illegal activity, even at night and in remote areas.
“Late September is a known high-risk period for non-compliance in the Marine Park, and fishers are reminded to know the zoning rules to avoid fines of $2,200 for fishing in no-take areas,” he said.
“Investment into our compliance program means there are more staff, better boats, and better technology which has led to more effective patrols.
“We now have boats and surveillance aircraft with thermal surveillance capability, which allows us to capture fishing activity from a distance at night.”