Ocean Freedom’s commitment to the environment and to its guests

Ocean Freedom…

…is passionate about giving you the most personal, customer-oriented Great Barrier Reef tour possible.

Ocean Free and Ocean Freedom are two Great Barrier Reef Tours operated by Taryn and Perry, owners of Cairns Premier Reef & Island Tours. This locally owned and family operated company was born from a desire to give travellers the best, most personalised and customer-oriented reef experience possible, whilst ensuring a high respect for safety and passion for looking after the reef. Operating for over 20 years, Perry and Taryn personally guarantee their guests the best possible experience in any conditions.

…is strongly committed to sustainable practices and looking after the reef.

It is of utmost importance to Ocean Freedom that our crew share our passion for customer care, safety, the reef and genuinely connecting with guests, in order to provide an unforgettable Great Barrier Reef experience. By engaging all guests and giving them a real connection to the reef, we hope to inspire people to make small, positive environmental and lifestyle changes in their lives – the sum of which can lead to great outcomes for our planet.

“Our take-home message is for all guests to have an appreciation of the incredible coral reef and marine life, and then value and understand the importance of looking after this magnificent icon for the enjoyment of future generations.”

…is strongly committed to following all Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority regulations and guidelines.

All the Great Barrier Reef sites we visit are situated in highly protected zones of the marine park, so fall under the protection of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s (GBRMPA) guidelines.

“Due to Ocean Freedom’s commitment to eco friendly sustainable tourism, it is listed as a High Standard Reef Operator.”

…proudly displays its Advanced Eco Certification from Ecotourism Australia.

Ocean Freedom continues to be demonstrably committed to maintaining its very high eco and sustainable practices and ongoing commitment to protection of the environment.

Although the company has operated boutique-style eco friendly operations since the early 1990s, Ocean Freedom gained its Advanced Eco Certified certification in 2009, which it maintains by:

  • Continued education of environmentally safe snorkelling and diving practices.
  • Continued annual coin collection each May on the boat, with 100% going to local turtle rehabilitation.
  • Continued support for the Crown-of-thorns Starfish (COTS) Control Program.
  • Continued Support of Marine Tech school.
  • Updated books: Ocean Freedom’s Treasures and Ocean Free highlight our reef areas, with passengers encouraged to become guardians of any marine life they may have photographed on the day.
  • No plastics policy: for over 20 years we have not used any plastic plates, cutlery, cups or plastic straws on either vessel.
  • The stoppage of bottled water sales on both boats since 2017.

What are the most recent projects?

1. Coral Nurture Programme (May 2019–current)

Cairns Premier Reef & Island Tours is very excited to continue its involvement in this unique programme along with five other high standard Great Barrier Reef operators in Cairns and Port Douglas region.

It follows a successful feasibility study completed by Dave Suggett and Dr Emma Camp of University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in partnership with John Edmonson. We joined with this great team, including post-graduate student Lorna Howlett, all of us equally passionate people on a project that aligns with our philosophy of nurturing nature, not attempting to change it.

“A core objective of this program is to introduce coral planting into localised stewardship and adaption… The Coral Nurture Program is a new approach for the Great Barrier Reef, initiated by a partnership between science and tourism. Our unique approach is not about “reef restoration” as such, rather long-term stewardship and adaptation at economically valuable reef locations , increasing readily available management tools beyond existing options to include boosting live coral cover by planting corals”

Visit the Coral Nurture Program site here: www.coralnurtureprogram.org

Why we loved this project:

  • We have already been stewards and protecting our reef sites for over 24 years – no one is more passionate about or protective of their permitted reef sites.
  • We have been part of the COTS control programme for many years and looked after our sites post cyclone events, observing bleaching events and recovery levels.
  • We have followed strict Marine Park regulations and practised and taught environmentally safe practices for snorkelling and diving to our crew and guests, even before any ecotourism accreditation was available. We thereby ensured our reef sites were not damaged by tourism use, and in so doing educated thousands of domestic and international visitors on safe and responsible snorkelling and diving practices.
  • We have educated thousands of visitors on how to respectfully interact with the reef and marine life advocating also all marine park regulations: no harassing marine life, no standing, no touching coral, no feeding the fish and no rubbish overboard.
  • We have been the “eyes” for GBRMPA reporting on any suspect behaviour on the reef.
  • We have been part of the “Eye on the Reef” programme.
  • We understand that nature is incredible and that, whilst we are all excited to ensure the health and vibrancy of this incredible icon, we are mindful that any intervention applied to our reef sites must not upset or interfere with the balance of the site’s unique ecosystem.
  • We are not out to change the reef’s ecosystem, but to preserve it as nature intended.

What is the Coral Nurture Programme?

We follow a strict set of conditions set by Dave’s team and under strict permitting conditions of GBRMPA. The area is recorded and monitored regularly.

In practical terms

Coral fragments are “out-planted” (secured onto a natural coral substrate) in areas which have been affected by cyclone damage or a bleaching event, then grown in-situ as it would following coral spawning and attaching to the substrate – except it is already a little older. The coral fragment, over some weeks, forms an attachment to the coral substrate and then secures its position in the ecosystem. Only coral from that particular reef site area is propagated and out-planted ensuring that we are just filling in the gaps that may have been caused by cyclone damage, rough wave action, or bleaching – essentially just giving nature a helping hand. By doing this, it is hoped that we may be able to give all visiting tourists more consistent reef experiences and allow the reef to recover from these events in a more timely fashion, by also having a nursery of coral fragments to outplant after such events.

Where do we get the coral fragments from?

Coral fragments are collected in a couple of ways:

  1. By looking for “opportunity” coral fragments on the site – this may be due to breakages through rough weather, post-cyclone where small fragments of coral have broken off.
  2. By taking coral fragments from the nurseries (see below).

The opportunity fragments are then either put in the nursery to grow and act as a source of coral, or directly taken to outplant on the various areas of the reef where coral coverage has been affected by cyclones or post-bleaching events. The coral branches are ingeniously secured to the natural reef substrate by use of a Coralclip (devised by John Edmondson), so no toxic glues or other foreign substances used.

Nursery frames are set at certain positions on the reef site according to set criteria. Opportunity coral fragments are collected from that particular site and secured to the nursery frame, which then grow on the frame. The frame effectively becomes a nursery for coral growth or coral propagation, from which fragments can be tapped off and used for more out-planting.

Despite only being involved in this programme for a short time, we have already seen the potential for this simple and effective and natural technique.

From past experience, following cyclones we had observed that the coral would survive and grow if turned over and placed somewhere secure, so it made complete sense when this novel approach of securing smaller fragments onto the reef substrate appeared, enabling a large amount of smaller fragments to be secured in the available natural substrate and survive and thrive.

The beauty of this technique is that there is absolutely no interference with the natural substrate of the growing reef, nor is there any attempt to change the reef structure or species balance: we are just enhancing what is already there. The nursery frames are there purely to propagate coral from that specific site.

So, come and learn about the Great Barrier Reef in a fun and informative way. Do all or some of our activities – your choice! If you are interested make sure you ask our crew – they are always willing to inform!

  • Be mesmerised by our informative Adventure Drift Snorkel tour with our Master Reef Guide or Marine Naturalist.
  • Keep dry and jump on board our Glass Bottom Boat Tour.
  • Take our optional extra dive and plunge a little deeper to see the Great Barrier Reef up close and personal.
  • Be mesmerised by the abundance of reef life and, if you’re interested, come and see our Coral Nurture programme in action – our crew will point out the nursery areas and some out-planting that has already been done.

2. Photo Point Enhancement project with Reef Teach

We have had plans for involvement in this programme since earlier this year, which were delayed by COVID-19. But watch this space: this is due to be started this year once we return to normality.

Our continued philosophy: To provide the most personal, customer-oriented Great Barrier Reef experience.

Ocean Free and Ocean Freedom are the two Great Barrier Reef tours operated by Cairns Premier Reef & Island Tours. Owners Perry Jones and Taryn Agius have been operating reef tours locally for over 24 years and specialise in giving low guest numbers highly personalised tours and an unforgettable reef experience. Guests regularly report the tour/s to be the highlight of their holiday. Great pride is taken in the crew, who are hand-picked for unsurpassed service, professionalism and a high respect for safety.

© Ocean Freedom 2021

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