Great Barrier Reef Experiences Massive Coral Spawning

THE Great Barrier Reef has been reborn in one of the biggest coral spawning events witnessed in recent years, with scientists hopeful for the future of the natural wonder.

Soft and hard corals have all released their eggs and sperm into the water off the Far Northern coast as part of the annual synchronised biological phenomenon.

Coral bleaching on a Far Northern reef recorded during recent surveys. Image by GBRMPA

Marine experts say the healthy amount of reproductive activity from corals bodes well for reef recovery in coming months. 

Calypso Productions marine biologist Stuart Ireland, who filmed corals spawning at Moore Reef on Wednesday night, said it was the best he had observed in six years.

“Maybe 30 species of hard and soft corals spawned in the space of just 90 minutes,” he said.

“Everything from plate corals to staghorn corals, crusty corals, a honeycomb coral and about six to seven species of Acropora (branching corals) spawned.”

Diver filming coral spawning at Hastings Reef on Wednesday night. Photo: Alicia McArdle

He said the special event showed the Reef was resilient despite the challenges that man and climate change had thrown at the World Heritage Area.

“Despite the past bleaching events in 2016-2017, the fact we are seeing corals spawning means the functionality of the ecosystem is working, and while we see this, along with recruitment and regeneration, we can all have some hope about the Reef’s future,” he said.

Biopixel’s Richard Fitzpatrick, who was also filming corals at Moore Reef, described the spawning as “average”, but much larger compared to last year.

“Up here, the corals that survived the double-bleaching, the Barrier Reef – basically in this section – had a headache,” he said. “There was bugger all spawning last year because corals were still that stressed to reproduce.”

Scientists gathered on reefs off Cairns this week to collect coral larvae to release on to damaged reefs in the Vlasoff and Arlington Reef area.

Close-up image of coral polyp releasing an egg during annual coral spawning at Moore Reef. Photo: Calypso Productions

The project, the largest collaborative effort in history to regenerate a reef using coral spawn, brought together some of the world’s leading coral scientists, tourism and other key industry partners.

James Cook University researcher Katie Chartrand said they were all on a big high after a successful night of harvesting millions of coral eggs and sperm for the history-making project.

“We had a phenomenal spawn and our spawn-catcher performed beyond expectations,” she said.

It is hoped the corals, which survived mass coral bleaching, will be more tolerant to heat and able to replenish the damaged reef areas.

Story from the Cairns Post, Daniel Bateman.

By Super Yacht Great Barrier Reef

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