The Great Reef Census was launched on 8 October, with a flotilla of boats deployed along the 2300 kilometre Great Barrier Reef over the next 10 weeks.
Among boats big and small are the stunning luxury motor yachts Settlement, Beluga, Aroona, Argo and Ocean Quest.
Super Yacht Group Great Barrier Reef and leading Australian yacht agent Ocean Alliance have led efforts to bring the superyachts on board.
Weekly charter rates for superyachts typically start at more than $100,000, but crew have rallied to provide the most comprehensive snapshot ever captured of the Reef, up to 40 percent of which has never been surveyed before.
They will join dive boats, research vessels, island ferries, fishing charters and cruise catamarans in the Great Reef Census, which includes 100 priority reefs from Lady Elliot Island in the south to the northernmost reaches of Australia.
Citizen scientists from around the world will then help analyse images online.
“We hope to have thousands involved,” says Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef CEO Andy Ridley.
“We will mobilise every available boat on the Reef over an 10-week period, creating a survey fleet capable of reaching a much greater area than ever before.”
“We’re engaging all sectors of the reef community from tourism to some of the Reef’s leading scientists, Traditional Owners, recreational reef users and superyachts.”
Mr Ridley said it was exciting to have superyachts involved because they could reach areas inaccessible to others.
“Superyachts are in a unique position to operate in remote areas of the Great Barrier Reef and utilise their resources, crew, tenders and communications to vastly improve the reach and outcomes of the project.
“Yachts who sign up to join the Great Reef Census have the opportunity to explore one of the most extraordinary places on the planet and reefs rarely visited by boats,” he said.
“These remote reefs are an oasis of marine life and coral and places which still hold many mysteries.”
Mr Ridley said it was also a way to become involved in a conservation program that, if successful, could be exported globally.
“It’s a really meaningful way of utilising those vessels unable to do other things and the experience these boats have here might be something they can take to other places around the world.”
Superyacht Group Great Barrier Reef manager Joanne Drake said superyacht owners and crew had always had great respect for the earth’s biosphere.
“In the past, many vessels have been proactive in the important conservation and development efforts of its global ecosystems,” Ms Drake said.
“We are delighted that visiting yachts to our region are now deeply committed to this project, surveying our incomparable Great Barrier Reef to result in some truly tangible outcomes for future reef management and preservation efforts.”
The Great Reef Census is a Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef project, delivered in partnership with the University of Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science with support from James Cook University, the University of Technology Sydney and the University of Tasmania. The project is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the Prior Family Foundation and the Reef & Rainforest Research Centre.
The survey begins on October 8 and runs until mid-December. From mid-November, citizen scientists will be recruited to take part online. It follows last year’s pilot program and precedes a full-scale Great Census in 2021.