With the holiday season now behind us, many residents and visitors to Far North Queensland set their eyes on a new period of big events in the area: Cyclone season. Although the rainy season is underway, the rain tends to stay close to shore, and guests travelling to the reef can still be treated to sunny skies and calm seas. However, it is also in these months, usually January through to the end of March, which sees the skies darken, the winds pick up, and the rain come in all directions as tropical lows develop into large storms called Cyclones. Some might be surprised to learn, however, that it is during these severe events that some of the most important research on the health of the reef is undertaken.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is the government body tasked with regulating activities on the reef, and part of their work includes collecting data on overall reef health. Using various survey methods, Marine Park Rangers can determine what effects severe weather has on different reef systems. In addition, The Authority cooperates with operators like Passions of Paradise to train staff to carry out various surveys. We at Passions are lucky, as members of our staff have been trained in conducting the highest level of Marine Park surveys: The Reef Health Impact Survey, or RHIS.
The Reef Health Impact Survey training allows select tourism staff to report back to the Marine Park Authority after severe weather events. With the recent passing of Cyclone Dylan, Passions staff were back in the water ASAP guiding passengers through the wonders of this natural wonder; in addition, they were able to assess various impacts that resulted from the storm’s movements, such as coral damage, fish and wildlife behaviours, and changes in water quality. This data is returned to the Marine Park Authority, and compared with previous surveys to give scientists indications of what types of impacts severe weather can bring to the reef. This data, in turn, helps the Marine Park Authority in deciding how to manage the reef.
And so, as guests return to the reef and the winds die down, passengers on board Passions of Paradise can expect to see all the wonders of the reef, and we are happy to report that this weather system caused almost no severe damage to our locations. Those guests interested in learning more about these surveys, as well as the other scientific data Passions Staff collect out at the reef, can visit the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Eye on the Reef website at http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/about-the-reef/how-the-reefs-managed/eye-on-the-reef. Stay safe this cyclone season, and as always, we look forward to hosting you on your own voyage to the wondrous Great Barrier Reef.