There was a time when you could stand on the tiny beach of Raine Island, Queensland and watch literally thousands of just-hatched green turtles scamper across the sand to the ocean.
Located 620 kilometres north west of Cairns, noted British naturalist Sir David Attenborough has described the 21 hectare island as, ‘one of his favourite places in the world.’
But Raine Island, like the entire Great Barrier Reef that it is part of, has reached an historic moment in time.
“In just the last couple of years, the threats and challenges facing the Great Barrier Reef have risen to a whole new level,” said Anna Marsden, Managing Director Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
“We have seen almost back to back coral bleaching events that have impacted reefs around the world and essentially, the cumulative impact has destroyed half the coral of the Great Barrier Reef.”
The Great Barrier Reef Foundation was founded in 2000 by a group of Australian business people with a passion for protecting the world heritage listed reef.
“They recognised there was no focused, collaborative science addressing the growing number of threats facing the Reef at the time,” said Anna Marsden. "Now is the time to intervene with practical, long term assistance - it will not bounce back this time".
An example of the positive and substantial effects that scientific-directed action can have is best appreciated through the Raine Island Recovery Project.
Raine Island supports as many as 100,000 female green turtles migrating thousands of kilometres to lay their eggs in peak breeding season.
But it takes approx. 7 hours to get to the island by boat and due to insufficient resources and funding, only one trip a year was possible.
Those trips revealed that most of the 20 thousand turtle eggs were dying each year, along with large numbers of mature, female green turtles.
Without more research, no one could figure out why, let alone develop a solution.
So BHP committed $15 million towards reef science and conservation over the last 10 years.
According to Anna Marsden, “it has turned what was almost certain to be the extinction of a species around."
According to Anna Marsden, the Raine Island project has seen green turtle survival rates climb back from almost zero to 20%.
But even more significant in her mind is, “how long-term funding strategically deployed to specific projects can make a real difference.”
“It shows that for the entire Great Barrier Reef, we are in for the long haul and are working the problem, not just raising research dollars."