Australian scientists team up with mining giant to study ‘clean’ coral reef

CANBERRA (Xinhua) – Australia’s national science agency has formed a partnership with mining giant BHP to study the Ningaloo coral reef off the coast of Western Australia (WA).

Under the AUD7 million Ningaloo Outlook partnership, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and BHP will work together to collect information to support the conservation of the reef.

Ningaloo Reef stretches for about 300km and is Australia’s largest fringing coral reef. It is one of Western Australia’s biggest tourist attractions.

According to the CSIRO it is one of the cleanest reefs in the world with an average of about two items of plastic debris per square kilometre, compared to thousands of pieces on Australia’ most popular beaches. “It’s a pleasant finding compared to other places, Ningaloo is very clean, and there’s a real community engagement with the reef,” CSIRO Principal Research scientist Brett Molony told News Corp Australia.

“The beauty of Ningaloo is you can walk out to parts of the reef in minutes. But it’s not as well-studied as the Great Barrier Reef and it sits in a transition zone between tropics and temperate marine environment. The interplay between the two is becoming important in a changing world.” The CSIRO has been studying turtles and tracking the movements of whale sharks on the reef since 2015.

Those efforts will continue under the partnership with BHP, with new research areas to include long-term observations on coral reef health, tracking the movements of turtles and studying deep sea reefs.

“Our treasured environmental wonders are vital for our own wellbeing as well as the economy,” Larry Marshall, the chief executive of the CSIRO, said in a statement. “Ningaloo Outlook highlights the importance of collaboration to deliver exciting and innovative science to address key challenges we face as a nation, while boosting our enviable global advantages in ecotourism to our natural wonders.”