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Give to Reef Restoration Foundation and you will be contributing to undertaking practical coral restoration research projects that will regenerate high-value coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef.

Your gift will:
expand and maintain the firs... More
Give to Reef Restoration Foundation and you will be contributing to undertaking practical coral restoration research projects that will regenerate high-value coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef.

Your gift will:
expand and maintain the first offshore pilot coral nursery at Fitzroy island
enable the planning and approvals to be obtained for the second generation of coral nurseries
establish the second generation offshore coral nurseries

You will receive:
regular progress updates
invites to meetups and events
membership of a movement of coral gardeners that are creating a better future for the Great Barrier Reef

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About Reef Restoration Foundation

Our Story

Our Story

The Great Barrier Reef is under threat and there is a perception worldwide that the reef is either dead or dying.  Our purpose is to create hope and optimism through undertaking practical, tangible and breakthrough solutions that will make positive improvements to the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

What We Do

What We Do

Reef Restoration Foundation is a not for profit social enterprise that is establishing a series of offshore coral nurseries throughout the Great Barrier Reef to accelerate the recovery of damaged high value reefs and strengthen resilience to future bleaching events.  

This solution has been proven overseas and adapted to the Great Barrier Reef.  This process mimics nature and allows damaged reefs to re-open faster, increases resilience to future bleaching events and can increase repeat visitation and create new products, markets and customer segments for the tourism sector.

How We Do It

How We Do It

We collect small amounts of healthy corals that have survived the last two years of high temperatures.  These corals should be naturally more resilient to higher water temperatures and coral bleaching. The corals are collected and grown in off-shore coral nurseries, which are located adjacent to the damaged reefs.  The corals grow significantly faster in the nurseries than on the reef. After 6-12 months, cuttings are taken from each of the growing corals.

The cuttings are then cemented to the Reef to grow and regenerate damaged sections of the reef and strengthen resilience. The original corals remain in the nurseries to re-grow and the process becomes a continuous cycle. From the initial cutting of coral, thousands of new corals can be created. This is a similar approach to taking cuttings from healthy plants to grow new plants.

Where we do it

Where we do it

We obtained the first permit to undertake coral gardening and restoration in the Great Barrier Reef. In December 2017, we established the first coral nursery adjacent to Fitzroy Island near Cairns to prove the concept before expanding to other locations in 2018.

Fitzroy Island is located is 29km south-east of Cairns, Queensland, Australia. It is a large tropical island, with a rainforest covering and its own fringe coral reef system and is a 45-minute ferry ride from Cairns.  The Island is surrounded by a reef system that forms part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The Island formerly had a giant clam farm located at Welcome Bay and there is now a tourist resort, camping area and turtle rehabilitation centre located on the island.
The Fitzroy Island Resort, Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and Cairns Dive Centre have, for many years, been leaders in protection of the Reef and encouragement of restoration measures and are keen supporters of the Reef Restoration Foundation on this project.

The pilot project commenced in December 2017 with six coral growing frames and we anticipate expanding this to twenty frames in 2018.  The project will operate for a minimum of three years under the permits that have been provided to operate the project.

Our Strategies

Our Strategies
  • Science

Partner with credible research organisations to refine and validate approach.

  • Education

Educate our next generation about the importance of our coral reefs.

Create more awareness with the local community and tourists about what can be done to improve the health of the Great Barrier Reef and other reefs.

  • Coral

Establish coral nurseries

Maintain and monitor corals in nurseries.

Every 6-12 months taking cuttings and plant out corals to damaged reefs.


News By Reef Restoration Foundation

Offshore coral nursery a first for Great Barrier Reef

Offshore coral nursery a first for Great Barrier Reef

By Reef Restoration Foundation

20 Dec 2017

Live coral fragments have been successfully collected and installed in the first offshore coral nursery being trialled on the Great Barrier Reef in a bid to regenerate damaged areas of the world’s largest reef.

The Reef Restoration Foundation has a permit from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) to establish a pilot research offshore coral nursery at Fitzroy Island, near Cairns in Tropical North Queensland.

Foundation Chief Executive Officer Stewart Christie said the not-for-profit social enterprise sought and obtained significant tourism industry and scientific support for the coral gardening and restoration research project, which will regenerate degraded coral reefs.

“This week we collected small amounts of healthy coral which, having survived the past two years of high temperatures, should be naturally more resilient to coral bleaching,” he said.

“This coral has been attached to six ‘coral tree’ frames in the offshore coral nursery at Fitzroy Island.”

Corals in offshore nurseries grow much faster allowing cuttings to be taken just six to 12 months later to be attached on reefs to grow new coral and regenerate damaged sections.

James Cook University Professor Damien Burrows said: “As coral cover across the Great Barrier Reef continues to decline, additional management approaches are required to assist the recovery of corals.”

Led by the Reef Restoration Foundation, the project has strong tourism industry support with funding from Fitzroy Island Resort, Cairns Dive Centre, the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO) and Gempearl.

Researchers from James Cook University’s TropWATER and Reef Ecologic will be monitoring the performance of the coral nursery with support by volunteers from the Fitzroy Island Resort, Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, Cairns Dive Centre and other skilled individuals.

Mr Christie said the process adopted by Reef Restoration Foundation had been proven in other locations around the world including the Caribbean and Florida Keys.

GBRMPA Chairman Dr Russell Reichelt said there had been major climate change-driven impacts on the Great Barrier Reef over the past two years.

“GBRMPA’s Reef Blueprint launched this week highlights the importance of innovative approaches and new technologies to manage the Reef,” he said.
“It’s great to see this trial underway — while it’s still early days in this project, we look forward to seeing the results.”

Fitzroy Island Resort Director Doug Gamble said it was critical to invest in projects to support the natural assets that local industry and the community relied upon.

“Investing in the offshore coral nursery is a tangible action that will make a positive difference to reefs and contribute to a better-quality experience for our guests.”

Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO) Executive Officer and Gempearl Director Col McKenzie said the innovative program would engage tourism operators, Reef visitors, and individuals and businesses with a connection to the Reef showing that small actions could create a big impact for the Reef’s future.

Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef CEO Andy Ridley said: “Projects like this are vital as we need to work together to undertake actions at a local, reef wide and global scale that make a positive difference to ensuring the future health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef”.

Follow Reef Restoration Foundation on its journey at and if you are inspired to make a positive improvement to the health of the Great Barrier Reef, please sign-up or donate at

Great Barrier Reef to get help from coral gardens used to repopulate bleached sites

Great Barrier Reef to get help from coral gardens used to repopulate bleached sites

By Reef Restoration Foundation

20 Dec 2017

A unique research project underway near Cairns to grow healthy coral for replanting on the Great Barrier Reef could soon get a helping hand from tourists.

One of Australia's first coral gardens was planted this week.

Small pieces of coral taken from Fitzroy Island are being suspended from a tree-like structure to promote quick growth.

Reef Restoration Foundation founder Stewart Christie said the nursery of heat-tolerant varieties will eventually be harvested and placed on parts of the reef affected by bleaching.

"Every six to 12 months we'll take cuttings from these trees, plant them on the reef and try to restore some of those damaged sections," he said.

The not-for-profit organisation will spearhead the three-year research project, after it was granted a permit to install 20 coral growing frames in two different locations at Fitzroy Island.

The concept has been more than a year in the making and is based on successful programs developed in Florida and the Caribbean.

Tourists to get involved
If the study is a success, tourists will be given the opportunity purchase their own piece of coral which will be planted back on the reef.

"The focus is really around helping tourism operators rehabilitate and restore the damaged sites so they can showcase some pristine parts of the reef and from there we can start educating tourists and guests about the bigger ticket items like climate change, " Mr Christie said.

Acropora coral tagged for monitoring as part of a study to replant coral on the Great Barrier Reef.
PHOTO: Acropora coral tagged for monitoring as part of a study. (Supplied: Reef Ecologic)
The move has been backed by Cairns tourism operators who hope it will help businesses struggling after two consecutive bleaching events.

"Some of the local operators that aren't so much involved in the international marketing are down 20-30 per cent so it's a very significant drop in visitation," Association of Marine Park Tourism CEO Col McKenzie said.

Mr McKenzie said giving visitors ownership over the reef was instrumental in raising global awareness, while also encouraging return visits.

"This is probably one of the most exciting projects we've seen come up this year," he said.

"This the first time [the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority] has given a permit for this kind of research and if we can prove it's successful it has enormous potential to assist the tourism industry," he said.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's (GBRMPA) approval of the project coincides with the official launch of its Reef Blueprint this week, which sheds light on the challenges faced by the UNESCO World Heritage site.

"The future of the Great Barrier Reef is uncertain. We desperately need strong global action on climate change but in the meantime we need to do everything we can locally," GBRMPA chief scientist David Wachenfeld said.

Dr Wachenfeld said initiatives like coral gardening reflected a new approach to dealing with the problem.

"We're actually looking at new ways of managing the marine park and one of those things is to think about the best ways to intervene in the health of the reef and promote its resilience, including restoration," he said.

Marine scientist Nathan Cook, who has been assisting on the project, said while it was a step in the right direction, work in reef restoration must not detract from the problem of climate change.

"They can provide small-scale localized diligence to help that reef manage through difficult times and potentially recover quicker after disturbances, but we have to be mindful that we don't detract from the message that climate change is the greatest threat," he said.

Scientists working in the field have hopes the results of this research could open the door for other unique approaches to helping the reef enter into a new era.

"This is the first step on that road and we anticipate we'll have three, four or more of these projects over the coming few years," Mr Cook said.

By Sally Rafferty

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