"To minimise the businesses environmental footprint and always be active in conservation efforts"
Red Cat Adventures and our products – Thundercat, Tongarra and Falls to Paradise Ride are proudly accredited through Eco Tourism Australia, keeping us at the forefront of sustainable tourism in Australia.
Being Advanced Eco Advanced Certified and Climate Action Leaders demonstrates our commitment to tourism excellence and assures travellers that certified products are backed by a strong, well-managed commitment to sustainable practices. The accreditation recognises high-quality nature-based tourism experiences with strong interpretation values, commitment to nature conservation and reinvestment into local communities. We strive to educate and excite all who visit the Whitsundays and create a legacy of conservation to preserve this very special place we call home for future generations.
Red Cat Adventures works hard to minimise our environmental footprint in many ways, including minimising waste, recycling, providing education and using energy-efficient devices. We also actively participate in GBRMPA’s ‘Eye on the Reef’ citizen science program, as well as working in partnership with GBRMPA as Reef Guardians for Peter’s Bay to monitor and report the Bay’s health and implement improvement strategies. Red Cat Adventures has big plans for going green in the coming years and is working hard to lower our impact on the environment as much as possible.
Red Cat Adventures would like to empower all passengers to spread conservation messages on their return home and be active in taking steps to live greener lifestyles. Taking action can be as simple as using a clothes line instead of the dryer, walking instead of driving and taking your own water bottle instead of buying single use plastics. Be a leader in conservation and take action to ensure that our magical reef is preserved for years to come.
Click here to read more about how the Great Barrier Reef is managed.
Click here to read more about what you can do to help conserve the reef.
Click here to read more about Ecotourism Australia.
Climate Acton Leaders
Red Cat Adventures are proud to be certified Climate Action Leaders. This is the highest level of ECO certification you can be awarded in Austalia and we are the boat operator that has achieved this accreditation. In 2018/2019 we:
- Introduced a Green Wave Sustainability Program to ensure continual improvement of the businesses environmental objectives;
- Offset 52 tonnes of unavoidable carbon emissions by investing in CarbonNeutrals Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor plantings and International Wind Farm initiatives via co-funded investment of guest purchased offsets and business investment.
- Invested in a new more efficient vessel: Thundercat III saves 20 tonnes CO2-e per year over and above Thundercat I & II due to its upgraded design.
- Implemented ipad WIFI water tank system to better manage electric water pumps. The electricity bill has decreased by 50% due to this 2020 initiative.
The Whitsundays marvelous marine life
Corals are the building blocks of the reef. Many individual coral polyps aggregate in genetically identical colonies. They secrete a calcium carbonate exoskeleton which is left long after a coral has died. Although some corals can catch small fish and plankton using stinging cells on their tentacles, most corals obtain the majority of their energy and nutrients from zooxanthellae (single-celled dinoflagellates) that live within their tissues. This is why most corals on the Great Barrier Reef require sunlight and prefer to grow in clear, shallow water.
The foundations provided by coral reefs provide habitat and feeding grounds for an abundance of life. But it is not just the reefs that are important. The mangroves around the islands and on the mainland coasts provide important nursery grounds for fish species and work as filters, trapping sediment and improving water quality. The seagrass meadows provide important habitat for juvenile fish before they head out to the reefs or ocean and are a vital food source for marine life including dugongs and mature marine turtles.
Six of the seven species of marine turtle that can be found around the world exist on the Great Barrier Reef. The leatherback, loggerhead, and olive ridley turtle are each listed as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act) which means that these species may become extinct if the threats to their survival continue. The green, hawksbill, and flatback turtle are each listed as vulnerable which means that they may become endangered if threats continue. Turtles are regularly seen in the waters around the Whitsunday Islands. They nest from Nov to February and hatchlings start emerging from January to April.
Other large animals that can be seen in the Whitsundays include mammals the snubfin, humpback and bottlenose dolphin and dugongs (the GBR has one of the world’s most important dugong populations)! The GBR is home to over 130 species of rays and sharks including reef sharks, tiger sharks, wobbegong, earning their name from the Aboriginal word for shaggy beard due to their shaggy appearance and rays including manta rays. The waters are also home to saltwater crocodiles.
Management of the Reef
The Whitsundays inshore and offshore area is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) whose management is guided by a range of plans, policies, regulations, and legislation, with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 which sets out GBRMPA’s functions and responsibilities. Zoning plans and the Whitsundays Plan of Management guide day to day use by operators in the Whitsunday area. Zones have been designed to direct the use that is permitted to balance environmental protection, recreational and commercial uses of the marine park. All operators utilizing the marine park pay an environmental management charge (EMC) to the GBRMPA. The funds received from the EMC are vitally important in the day-to-day management of the Marine Park and in improving its long-term resilience.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services (QPWS) manage the national parks along the Queensland Coast. Marine park rangers manage the Marine Park including the islands, marine infrastructure including moorings. Marine park rangers operate out of Airlie Beach.
Reef Catchments is the region’s Natural Resource Management body. They work to ensure long term sustainability of natural resources and improve practices to protect the reef and the wider environment. With poor water quality from land-based run off listed as the second most threat to the reef (GBRMPA, 2018) the work that Reef Catchments contributes too is critical in improving the health of the GBR in the region.
- The GBRMPA’s Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan provides an overarching strategy for managing the Great Barrier Reef — it coordinates actions and guides adaptive management to 2050
- More info on QPWS management of protected areas – https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/managing/
The most severe climatic impacts recently being experienced in the Whitsundays area are tropical cyclones and other effects of climate change including coral bleaching. Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie crossed the Whitsunday Coast in March 2017 and caused mechanical damage to the reef and the subsequent run off and floodwaters caused a flood plume that increased turbidity and nutrient of waters for months following the event. The reef was significantly altered by this event and recovery is ongoing. Coral bleaching has been recorded around the Whitsundays however at minimal levels compared to northern reef areas that were severely impacted by coral bleaching in both 2016 and 2017.
- See the GBRMPA website for up to date info.
- See the Mackay Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef report Card 2016 (this is a biannual publication) for information on the environmental health of the region.
The Earth’s climate has always changed throughout time however the accelerated change occurring currently due to greenhouse gases emitted through human activity is unprecedented. Climate change has been modelled using low, medium and high emissions scenarios. We are currently tracking well above the highest emissions model and are experiencing predicted impacts including ocean acidification, rising sea levels, higher average temperatures and more intense extreme events.
Exposure to these conditions, and the sudden onset of these conditions, leaves the environment, and people unable or unprepared to adapt in time. Coral bleaching is a well-publicised event that has occurred in some coral species that are not able to withstand the recent spikes in ocean temperatures. It is predicted that certain species will out-survive other species, altering species compositions and potentially lowering the biodiversity of the reef.
Ocean acidification is already being witnessed off of the coast of Florida Keys and is seeing corals and other shelled organisms that cannot adapt in time lose their hard shells or skeletons and disappearing from the area. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) warns that In the long-term, ocean acidification is likely to be the most significant impact of a changing climate on the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem.
Mitigation is reducing your carbon footprint. RCA is considering options to mitigate and conserve the environment. Initiatives already in place include changing over to more energy efficient lighting, increasing recycling and purchasing green power.
- Climate change is the biggest threat to the reef (GBRMPA)
- It is not certain how climate change will affect rainfall.
- The average annual temperatures are getting hotter, the oceans are acidifying and sea levels around the globe (not everywhere) on average are rising.
- Cyclone intensity is predicted to increase with climate change.
- The oceans absorbs about a third of the carbon dioxide produced by humans. This dissolves in seawater and becomes carbonic acid. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/oceans/critical-issues-ocean-acidification/
Recommended Resources for further information:
- Watch the video at; https://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/learn-about-the-reef/resources-by-theme/climate-change
- See climate wheel and projections booklet produced by CSIRO and the AU Gov.
- Coral bleaching info provided by GBRMPA including maps of most severely bleached locations in recent bleaching events – https://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/about-the-reef/reef-health
- Reef Catchments Regional Sustainability Plan gives local information and tools to assist in mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
- Coastadapt is a very informative website with lots of up to date information.
Quote from the GBRMPA website (2018);
- Climate change
- Poor water quality from land-based run-off
- Impacts from coastal development
- Illegal fishing
Resources – Be Pest Free Brochure – https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/pdf/be-pest-free-gbr-broch.pdf
- They are a type of box jellyfish
- Different species of Irukandjis occur onshore and offshore
- Even though they are very small their tentacles can be over 3 feet long
- Stings have been reported all months of the year
- They eat small fish
- Irukandjis have been around a long time and only three people have died worldwide
- Vinegar kills invisible stinging cells, stopping more sting
- Hairy people and animals still get stung
What we are doing to help
On the 8th of March 2018 our boat crew on Thundercat day tour came across a ghost net in our pristine waters here in the Whitsundays. Luckily enough our Eco warriors removed the ghost net from sea and put in above high tied mark on Whitsunday Island and notified the National park. Ghost nets are commercial fishing nets that have been lost, abandoned, or discarded at sea. Every year they trap and kill millions of marine animals including sharks, rays, bony fish, turtles, dolphins, whales, and shellfish. Ghost nets cause further damage by getting caught on live coral and the fringing reef.