Reef Keepers

How it Works

The amount contributed to the fund (to be distributed to projects) will be calculated every six months based on $50 per guest stay at one of our boutique lodges within the Northern Escape Collection and $5 for each guest stay at The Ville Resort.

The Issues

The Great Barrier Reef is under threat. Human actions on land are affecting the oceans and threatening the reef. The three biggest challenges facing the reef are climate change, water pollution and overfishing.

Climate Change

The phenomenon of mass coral bleaching is directly related to the sea temperature.  Coral’s are stressed when the temperate rises 1-2 degrees above normal ranges and stays elevated for an extended period.

During the summers of 2016 and 2017, the elevated sea level temperature resulted in two mass bleaching events which are directly related to extensive losses in corals in the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef. Aerial surveys estimated that 48% of the marine park was impacted by these two events.

The Paris Agreement (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) that was ratified by the Australian Government aims to limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. Even if the world meets these targets, coral reefs around the world, including the Great Barrier Reef, will be continue to be put under stress in a warmer climate.

Despite this serious situation, there is still hope – in particular, for the southern section of the reef around Orpheus Island and further south, which maintains some excellent reefs to visit and reminds us why this natural wonder is worth protecting.

Water Pollution

Good water quality is the reason why the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most beautiful, diverse and complex ecosystems in the world. Reefs grow best in waters that have naturally low concentrations of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediments.

Due to costal development, agriculture, mining and ports, there has been an increased sediment run-off from land. When sediment and other pollutants enter the water, they smother coral reefs, speed the growth of damaging algae, and lower water quality. Pollution can also make corals more susceptible to disease, impede coral growth and reproduction, and cause changes in food structures on the reef.

Nutrient run-off is also the cause of outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish – a significant contributor to the loss of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef.

Crown-of-thorns starfish are marine invertebrates that feed on coral and when conditions are right, they can reach plague proportions and devastate hard coral communities. Surveys show that healthy reefs generally recover between outbreaks, taking 10 to 20 years to do so however, recovery takes longer on reefs that are affected by additional stresses, such as coral bleaching, cyclones or poor water quality.


Fishing on the Great Barrier Reef is an important pastime and a source of income for both Queensland coastal communities and the seafood industry. The Great Barrier Reef supports commercial, recreational, Indigenous and charter fishing, targeting a range of species including fish, sharks, crabs and prawns.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority uses zoning to determine where different activities, including fishing, are able to take place. About two-thirds of the Marine Park is open to recreational fishing.

Some remaining impacts of fishing pose major threats to the future vitality of the Reef. The highest fishing-related risks to the ecosystem are incidental catch of species of conservation concern, illegal fishing and poaching, discarded catch, extraction of predators and extraction from spawning aggregations.

The Queensland Government is implementing a sustainable fishing strategy reform, which will further protect the reef and ensure healthy fish stocks into the future. 

Projects Supported to Date

Research, Awareness and Education

Organisation: Great Barrier Reef Legacy

 Great Barrier Reef Legacy is a community focused non-for-profit organisation that is committed to the protection of coral reef systems worldwide. Their mission is to engage people from all nations to play their role in safeguarding this world heritage site for the future and to be an innovative leader in marine research expeditions, education, conservation and stewardship.

Reef Keepers supported Great Barrier Reef Legacy’s “Search for the Super Corals Expedition” which launched from the shores of Port Douglas in November 2017. The 21-day landmark expedition provided free access for a team of 20 marine scientists and a support crew to study corals, primarily the colonies of “Super Corals” that have survived bleaching events.

The expedition identified the reefs first known “Super Coral” capable of surviving the worst known bleaching events. It also collected live coral colonies for the Australian Institute of Marine Science to use to establish a brood stock of tough corals, enabled the world’s top coral scientist – Dr Charlie Veron – to discover at least one new coral species, and created a collaboration between research teams not yet seen.

 Climate Change

Organisation: Australian Marine Conservation Society
Target issue: Advocacy for greater action on climate change

 The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) is the voice for Australia’s ocean wildlife. AMCS’ vision is that the Great Barrier Reef survives as a functioning ecosystem with many of its World Heritage values intact. AMCS has a long, proud history of fighting for the Great Barrier Reef. They played a critical role in establishing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and World Heritage Area and stopping mining and oil drilling on the reef. Now they are facing the biggest threat to the reef ever –  climate change. AMCS’ Fight for the Reef campaign aims to hold the Queensland and Australian Governments accountable for the decisions made about the reef.

Organisation: Rainforest Rescue
Target Issue: Carbon sequestration through tree planting and restoring rainforests

 Rainforest Rescue has been protecting and restoring rainforests in Australia and internationally since 1998. They do this by protecting the biodiversity of high conservation value rainforest, and by re-establishing rainforest through planting, maintenance and restorative conservation programs. Reef Keepers supports the Nightwings Project which aims to have 100,000 trees in the ground by 2019. This will result in a fully restored rainforest connection from the Daintree Lowland, the Great Barrier Reef up to the Upland Rainforest and through to Stewart’s Creek on the other side of the Dagmar Range.

Water Pollution

 Organisation: Tangaroa Blue Foundation
Target issue: Marine debris

Tangaroa Blue Foundation is an Australian-wide not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the removal and prevention of marine debris, one of the major environmental issues worldwide.

To successfully solve the problem of marine debris, the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) was created, an on-ground network of volunteers, communities and organisations that contribute data from rubbish collected during beach and river clean-up events to the AMDI Database, and then work on solutions to stop the flow of litter at the source.

Reek Keepers supports Tangaroa Blue in conducting beach clean ups on the national park areas of Orpheus Island and surrounding islands. In April 2018, 13 volunteers removed one ton of marine debris from one beach on the island. They prioritise recycling the debris as much as possible, whilst also identifying the sources of the items to understand their origins.

 Organisation:  James Cook University
Target issue: Crown-of-thorn outbreaks

 Outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish are recognised as one of the major threats to coral reef ecosystems. Despite significant advances in managing outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish, the effectiveness of the culling program on the Great Barrier Reef is constrained by delays in the time required for necessary commitment of Government funding following realisation of an emerging outbreak.

Reef Keepers has funded James Cook University in research to establish an early-warning system to allow for timely and effective management of crown-of-thorn outbreaks. This system will provide evidence of an impending outbreak and alert culling boats of where to target.

Organisation: World Wildlife Fund
Target issue: Clearing of forests

 WWF-Australia recognises that forests and woodlands are essential to the production of sustainable food, the preservation of threatened species, and the creation of a low-carbon future. These forests are also essential to reduce soil-erosion and nutrients flowing into waterways, including the Great Barrier Reef. WWF have been campaigning for much stronger laws to stop excessive tree-clearing in NSW and QLD.

Organisation: Boomerang Alliance
Target issue: Plastic pollution

 The Boomerang Alliance includes a range of environmental groups ranging from surfers, recyclers and neighbourhood groups. They have been instrumental in their campaign for a national container deposit scheme, which has now been adopted by NSW, ACT, QLD and WA (already existing in SA and NT). The Alliance is also involved in a range of waste reduction campaigns including “ban plastic bags” and “communities take control” to encourage plastic free communities. Ultimately the goal is to reduce marine plastics, and avoid the continuation of this trend which is said to result in more plastic than fish in the ocean (by weight) by 2050.