Bleached coral at Moore Reef on the Great Barrier Reef in 2016. PICTURE: BRIAN CASSEY
Bleached coral at Moore Reef on the Great Barrier Reef in 2016. PICTURE: BRIAN CASSEY

$1m catalyst for ideas to revive Reef

A MILLION-DOLLAR call for ideas to boost coral abundance has caught the eye of the Great Barrier Reef's first coral nursery.

The State and Federal Governments this week challenged innovators to share in $1 million to restore the Reef's ecological functions, with a further $1 million to develop the best concepts.

Reef Restoration Foundation co-founder Gary McKenna has spearheaded efforts to revive a small part of the Reef at Fitzroy Island by growing and replanting hardy corals.

The project has been largely self-funded so far, with some help from benefactors who approached the group with offers of financial help.

Mr McKenna said the organisation would attend an information session in Brisbane in February to see if their work could be a contender for funds.

"We've got a permit and that takes a serious amount of time - that's a big advantage," he said.

The Reef Restoration's work mimics the asexual process of coral reproduction.

"Corals break themselves and attach back to the reef, so all we're doing is giving them a helping hand," he said.

"We're working with corals that have withstood the last two bleaching events, so we know that they're naturally more resilient.

"That one piece that we've taken, which is 10 per cent of a piece of coral, will produce hundreds and hopefully thousands of resilient corals over the years."

Mr McKenna said he had not actively sought funding over the project's two-year life span to date, mostly because it was such a hard pitch to make.

"A lot of people didn't think we'd get the permit," he said.

"We've held off until we can go to people and say here it is, it's happening - we want to extend this nursery or put another nursery elsewhere on a different type of reef."

He also planned to launch an "adopt-a-coral" program and PADI dive restoration courses to create other sources of income.

Reef and Rainforest Research Centre director Sheriden Morris urged anyone with bright ideas to make a pitch for funding.

"As the threats to the Reef increase with rising temperatures and the like, we need two things: We need to continue to decarbonise the economy and to increase conservation efforts."