Australian Marine Parks

Turtle - Rohan Newton

Safeguarding the Christmas Island Red Crab

Island Care incorporated - $12,253

Each year on Christmas Island, millions of red crabs make their way from the jungle to the coastline for breeding with the first rainfall of the wet season. During their journey along well-trodden migration routes, red crabs navigate busy roads and the Christmas Island township. In 2023–2025, Island Care Christmas Island will support the existing red crab migration management effort, through the “Safeguarding the Christmas Island Red Crab. Safeguarding our future,” project.

The primary aim of the project is to enhance the capacity and safety of community volunteers, including Junior Rangers, to support crab management during the red crab migration. This will be achieved by improving volunteer access to necessary crab management equipment including safety vests, rakes, and brooms, and by helping to coordinate volunteers to support Christmas Island National Park and Shire staff. Island care will also design and procure portable road signs in collaboration with the community. Finally, stormwater drain covers will be designed and their use trialled in the Kampong during the ‘return’ to assist baby crabs’ traverse manmade hazards.

A secondary citizen science component of the project (2024) will involve marking crabs and recording observed marked crabs’ locations as they migrate to the coastline. This will provide information on crab numbers and migration routes. Reporting and social media coverage of this and other aspects of the project will promote community engagement and increase understanding, appreciation and protection of Christmas island’s unique fauna, terrestrial ecosystems and the marine park, thereby safeguarding the Christmas Island red crab and our future.

Christmas Island Marine Park Mural

Pulau Sapiens - $17,000

A site on Christmas Island’s foreshore has been selected for a large-scale mural to help interpret the values of the new Christmas Island Marine Park. It will feature a tribute to the wild, wet and wonderful to help raise awareness of the beautiful fragility of our shared ocean space.

Survival, Lifestyle, Culture and Sustainability. The Enduring Relationship of the Christmas Island Community with the Marine Environment

Christmas Island Stories Incorporated - $49,200

The project will explore, through four video stories, the Christmas Island community’s enduring relationship with the marine environment. The project’s topics, survival, lifestyle, culture and sustainability will illustrate the community’s journey from the early days of habitation on the island, through to recent times, and specifically the creation of the marine park and what it means for the future. Through this 120-year period the community’s relationship with marine environment has evolved, being initially motivated by the basic necessities of survival, to one which has a growing concern about its environmental impact and furthermore to appreciate and actively support the capacity of current and future generations to create healthy, liveable and sustainable communities.

Lily Beach Precinct Upgrade

Shire of Christmas Island - $150,000

The Lily Beach precinct, being the gateway to the Christmas Island Marine Park, is a significant location for Islanders, tourists and wildlife, boasting one of the largest colonies of the endemic Abbott’s Booby on the Island. This project aims to enhance the precinct by upgrading the gazebo, introducing barbecue facilities and constructing eco-friendly ablution blocks, making it a welcome and sustainable destination for visitors.

Shallow (0-20M) Habitat Mapping

EOMAP Australia - $71,760

This project aims to map the Satellite-Derived Bathymetry (SDB), reflectance (seafloor colour) and benthic habitats at 2m horizontal spatial resolution, for the shallow waters (0-20 m) of the Cocos (Keeling) Island Marine Park. These critical geospatial data layers provide the essential environmental baseline knowledge to support the long-term protection, monitoring and management of the IOT Marine Parks. Mapping the shallow water zone is of importance both from an environmental and socioeconomic perspective. Having access to digital, georeferenced, high-resolution maps of bathymetry, seafloor reflectance and benthic habitats of shallow water areas, is of fundamental use in the areas of ecological research, environmental modelling, management and conservation, and monitoring the impacts from climate change. This information will help to increase the appreciation and understanding of the marine environment of the IOTs.

Marine Debris Project

Tangaroa Blue Foundation - $327,100

The project will engage and train community members and partners in data collection, microplastics sampling and standardised marine debris monitoring methodologies. This will build the capacity of the Christmas Island community and provide further

insight into the environmental threats from marine debris to the newly established IOT marine park. The project will provide opportunities for the Christmas Island community through marine debris training and workshops, on-island large scale clean-up activities and quarterly monitoring days at key beaches as well as Source Reduction Strategies that can be developed and implemented to assist with waste management on Christmas Island. Employment of an on-island coordinator will help facilitate on-ground planned activities and be the key point of contact for the community and stakeholders throughout the grant period.

Metocean Conditions and Dynamics of the Dominant Seaweed

TLA Environmental - Joanna Buckee - $50,000

Widespread loss of the seagrass Thalassia hemprichii poses a significant ecological risk to the lagoon environment of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and is thought to be the result of multiple stressors, including long-term water quality changes due to development and climate change, episodic lagoon die-off events and overgrazing by resident sea turtles. The project will aim to conduct a fundamental scientific investigation of the drivers of benthic variability on Cocos (Keeling) Islands (CKI), with a focus on metocean conditions and environmental dynamics of the dominant green seaweed Caulerpa. The research will seek to actively engage the Cocos community and provide educational outcomes in collaboration with the Cocos Islands District High School (Cocos DHS). A related component of this project is the installation of real time monitoring buoys (temperature and wave climate) which will provide both the scientific and local community with real time data in relation to fundamental metocean conditions in the Cocos lagoon. The data obtained by the buoys would have direct relevance to all proposed scientific studies and to our understanding of macroalgal dynamics, as well as practical utility for the Cocos marine community.

The Status of Resident Sea Turtles at Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Biomarine International - Scott David Whiting - $371,880

The Cocos Keeling Islands (CKI) supports nationally and internationally significant populations of threatened green and hawksbill turtles. This project will document the population and health status in the context of catastrophic seagrass loss and potentially long-term habitat changes at this key Indian Ocean location. A team of multidisciplinary experts will use innovative techniques and technology to establish multiple lines of evidence for their current status. The results will inform local Custodians, park managers, the CKI Shire and various stakeholders, all of which highly value turtles as a prominent feature of CKI.

Seagrass Restoration of the Cocos (Keeling) Island Lagoon

Sea Country Solutions - $291,880

Seagrass habitats at Cocos (Keeling) Islands have experienced a significant decline, with an estimated 80% loss within the lagoon over the last two decades. This decline poses a serious threat to the ecosystem’s health and to those species that rely on seagrasses for food, habitat and shelter. Sea Country Solutions has partnered with Cocos Marine Care, James Cook University and leading seagrass restoration and resilience experts to develop a scientifically-tested restoration program for seagrasses at the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. This project will survey current seagrass habitats (known locally as ‘lumut’) and develop and test restoration techniques across the southern atoll to identify the approaches that are most likely to succeed at scale. Community members will be trained in scientific and monitoring methods and will work alongside scientists to develop and carry out restoration activities. Additionally, the project will produce a digital story that documents the decline of seagrass and the struggle for its recovery. This story will help increase awareness about the importance of restoring and caring for this critical habitat.

Habitat and Human Values and Use Mapping of the Indian Ocean Territories Marine Parks

Sea Country Solutions - $77,561

To effectively manage the newly established marine parks at Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands, it is important to understand the marine environment and its ecological, social and cultural significance. Sea Country Solutions will work with community members and visitors to create participatory maps that show how different areas are used and document their importance, ensuring that key activities and valuable local knowledge and expertise are represented. The project also involves training local residents to collect in-field data on marine habitats and biodiversity, which will be combined with remote sensing data to produce detailed habitat maps for shallow environments within the new marine parks. Together, this research will identify the natural, social and cultural values of the marine parks, providing a critical knowledge base for future management decisions and monitoring changes over time.

Coral Reef Survey and Taxonomy of the Indian Ocean Territories

Queensland Museum - $49,000

How we name and classify species is critical to current approaches to managing biological diversity, such as developing threatened species lists. For example, the IUCN Red List, whose primary function is the classification of vulnerability of species to extinction, relies on accurate species identifications and an understanding of species geographic ranges to establish population trends. The project will conduct a comprehensive survey of the coral fauna of the Australian Indian Ocean Territories to provide fundamental baseline data on the region’s marine ecosystems, inform ongoing ecosystem monitoring, and to examine the distinctiveness of the Indian Ocean Territories’ fauna compared to reefs elsewhere in Australia and the broader Indo-Pacific region. This project will therefore provide fundamental information on the marine environment of the Indian Ocean Territories. Building on field work we conducted in May 2022, this project will work in conjunction with local managers and tourism operators to provide a detailed understanding of the diversity and uniqueness of the islands’ coral faunas and communicate our findings to local communities and the wider public to highlight the unique nature of these isolated reef ecosystems.

Coral Reef Monitoring, Research and Community Engagement in the Indian Ocean Territories Marine Parks

James Cook University - $499,978

The IOT Marine Parks encompass at least 10 distinct inshore habitats, including coral reefs and seagrass, which support high biodiversity and many significant marine species. This project will provide information on the status and trends in key natural values to increase engagement and appreciation and inform management. Monitoring and research activities will determine the status of the natural values in the shallow waters, the ecological processes that maintain them, and the key threats. These activities will be conducted in close collaboration with the local communities to ensure two-way knowledge transfer. This project will provide training and educational resources to help build on-island capacity and support employment opportunities and ecologically sustainable economic growth.

Importance of the South Cocos Island Seagrasses in Sustaining the Island’s Inshore Recreational and Commercial Fisheries

The University of Adelaide - $50,000

Using a citizen science project, field surveys, and advanced stable isotope analyses, the importance of the South Cocos Island lagoon’s seagrasses as critical juvenile and feeding habitats for inshore fin-fisheries species will be assessed. This can help guide appropriate management practices of the lagoon’s declining seagrasses, by identifying which areas within the lagoon are of particular importance to sustain recreational and commercial coastal fish species.

Strengthening sustainability of the Indian Ocean Territories Marine Parks and local economy, through collaborative world-class ecotourism

University of Queensland, Ecotourism Australian & the Christmas Island Tourism Association - $290,578

To facilitate the sustainable future of nature-based tourism in the Indian Ocean Territories this project will enable tourism capacity building through engagement with the local industry. Environmental, social, cultural and economic sustainability of the visitor economy will be supported through recognition and reward of sustainable tourism initiatives, individual business scorecard assessments, a sustainable tourism toolkit, one-to-one coaching, research driven by local needs and priorities, on-island workshops, and world-leading sustainable tourism certification. This project will drive ecotourism that promotes and engages visitors with the natural wonders of the Indian Ocean Territories, while ensuring these wonders are valued and protected.

Promoting Safe and Sustainable Interactions Between Humans and Sharks at Cocos (Keeling) Islands

University of Western Australia - $322,380

The marine ecosystem at the Cocos (Keeling) Islands (CKI) supports a high abundance and diversity of fish species, including healthy reef shark populations. Sharks play an important role in the marine ecosystem, yet negative interactions between humans and sharks are occurring at CKI, including where sharks eat fishers’ catch (depredation) and display potentially aggressive behaviour towards ocean users. This can have negative impacts on tourism and fishing livelihoods at CKI. Our project will use a combination of community consultation, education and social science to characterise and quantify the complex nature of human-shark interactions at CKI, then develop co-designed measures for mitigating negative impacts and promoting co-existence between the CKI community and sharks.

By better understanding negative human-shark interactions and subsequently developing and implementing targeted activities to mitigate them, our project endeavours to deliver significant benefits to the CKI community by improving fishing livelihoods, food security and tourism opportunities. We will also support local employment by hiring a local project officer to coordinate community consultation and data collection activities. We are planning to run three fieldtrips as part of this project, in late June/early July 2023, February 2024 and November 2024, where we look forward to working together with the local community for the research.

Open-Ocean Wildlife Monitoring of Christmas Island

University of Western Australia - $49,020

The project will undertake the first-ever survey of the open-ocean wildlife (e.g. tunas, billfishes and sharks) using mid-water baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVS) in the Christmas Island Marine Park. The Marine Park is approximately 277,016 km2 and almost entirely comprised of pelagic habitat. In doing so, this investigation will provide an initial benchmark on the status of these animals as a basis for ongoing monitoring and management. Additionally, it will place Christmas Island in a regional context to further our understanding of its open-ocean biodiversity. Note, this project complements the 2.5 year project that will be undertaken at Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

Open-ocean wildlife monitoring of Cocos (Keeling) Islands

University of Western Australia - $426,774

The project objective is to enhance the local community understanding of, and capacity to monitor open-ocean (pelagic) wildlife such as tunas, billfishes and sharks in the proposed Cocos (Keeling) Islands (CKI) Marine Park to support long-term management. State-of-the-art midwater baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVS) will be used and provided to the community for training and on-going use. Building on previous surveys, the project will undertake 2 midwater BRUVS surveys in partnership with Cocos Marine Care (CMC), forming the basis of any longer term open-ocean wildlife monitoring programs. Video-centred outreach and educational materials will be developed collaboratively with CMC and local teachers to increase awareness of the open-ocean wildlife of CKI in the general community, school children and visitors.