The Whitsunday Water Quality Monitoring Blueprint for Tourism Operators was developed due to Great Barrier Reef (GBR) authorities and the Whitsunday community becoming increasingly concerned about an apparent decline in water quality. This was demonstrated in water quality monitoring results (Gruber et al., 2019) and supported by anecdotal evidence from local residents and tourism operators. Although Whitsunday water quality monitoring is already conducted by the Marine Monitoring Program, the tourism industry expressed that they felt in the dark regarding reef and marine monitoring and its outcomes.

The Blueprint Project was therefore established in early 2020 with the vision of empowering Whitsunday tourism operators and connecting them to water quality monitoring and reporting efforts in the region. This program is a citizen science project that brings together partners from across the Whitsunday community. This includes Reef Catchments, the MWI HR2RP, North Queensland Bulk Ports (NQBP), TropWATER (Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research) at James Cook University (JCU) and Whitsunday Tourism Operators – Whitsunday Bareboat Operators Association and Whitsunday Charter Boat Industry Association. This project aims to link citizen science and reef health research initiatives with water quality to collaboratively develop a framework for connecting citizen science with the HR2RP regional Report Card.

The Blueprint Project is funded by the Reef Trust Partnership Community Reef Protection Grant Program, NQBP and Reef Catchments. Thanks to additional funding from NQBP, this program is secured until January 2022.

The citizen science project is already increasing community understanding of water quality and reef health in the Whitsundays. Researchers from JCU have trained 17 crew members from four tourism operator businesses to collect marine data from two key sites at Cairn Beach (in the Hook passage) and Tongue Bay. Blue Pearl Bay has been flagged as a site for potential expansion of this project.

Reference List:

Gruber, R., Waterhouse, J., Logan, M., Petus, C., Howley, C., Lewis, S., . . . Neilen, A. (2019). Marine Monitoring Program: Annual Report for Inshore Water Quality Monitoring 2017-18. Report for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Townsville: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.