White Whale and the Reef Restoration Foundation

By James Campos

The Great Barrier Reef is many things. It is pillar of Australia’s national identity, a yardstick for global environmental health, a major tourism draw, a cornerstone of the regional economy, and a place of significant cultural value for Australia’s First Nations peoples. Its significance cannot be overstated – the Great Barrier Reef deserves respect and demands awe. However, back-to-back coral bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 combined with a major cyclone to generate unprecedented damage to almost two thirds of the reef, leaving it all-but unrecognisable.

Inspired by successful projects in Florida and the Caribbean, the Reef Restoration Foundation (RRF) immediately stepped to the forefront of reef regeneration efforts, submitting a research permit application in July 2017 to kickstart the first coral nursery program on the Great Barrier Reef. The regenerative nursery program was designed to mimic natural processes, with small cuttings of healthy corals that displayed higher levels of resilience during the 2016 and 2017 bleaching events attached to coral tree frames. Through this program, the RRF hoped that the recovery of damaged reefs could not only be accelerated, but that these reefs would also demonstrate greater resilience to future bleaching and natural events.

By December 2017, the RRF established the first of these nurseries at Fitzroy Island. 24 pieces of coral, harvested from Fitzroy Island’s fringing reef and attached to 6 coral tree frames, soon grew into 246 new coral colonies. Six months later the nursery had expanded to 650 corals, and an additional 4 coral tree frames were installed. The proof was in the pudding, with the RRF receiving a permit to install 120 coral tree frames in four locations on the outer Great Barrier Reef in late 2018.

Despite the glaring success of their restoration and regeneration efforts, the future viability of the coral nursery program remained largely reliant on donations from the public and corporate players. Step-up White Whale. Inspired by the work of RRF, former environmental scientist Ali, and husband Steve, cemented a corporate partnership with the RRF in 2019.

When Reef Restoration Foundation was formed to take local action to assist the natural process of recovery at the places we love, White Whale Coffee Roasters got on board to support us, and are still supporting the work we perform today. – Ryan Donnelly, RRF CEO

In doing so, White Whale committed to donating a portion of all bean sales in support of the coral nursery program’s goal of planting 1 million corals by 2026. Since 2019, White Whale has donated over $60,000 to the RRF. With the support of businesses like White Whale, RRF have recently recorded a major milestone – offering three field team members full time positions, in-turn, significantly increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of their efforts.

For White Whale, a relationship with the RRF is about putting our money where our mouth is in the truest sense. It is about becoming a beacon of environmentally conscious and socially responsible business practice for Far North Queensland, rallying in support of our beautiful region, and living our mission – coffee that does good.