SYDNEY, Oct. 8 (Xinhua) -- A fleet of tourism boats, private vessels, superyachts and research ships has set out to conduct a census of the Great Barrier Reef.
Launched on Thursday by Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, "the Great Reef Census" citizen science project has recruited more than 30 boats to help collect underwater images across 100 priority reefs over the next 10 weeks.
Any competent snorkeler with a camera can take part, including dive crew and tourists. The photos will be uploaded online over the coming months to allow citizen scientists from around the world to help analyze the data.
Spanning 2,300 km in length and comprising over 3,000 individual reefs, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the world's most incredible natural icons, but only 5-10 percent of it is regularly surveyed.
Project Science Lead, Professor Peter Mumby from the University of Queensland explained that scientists and managers need as much information about the vast and remote ecosystem as possible to better target their resources.
"Healthy reefs release many larvae or 'baby corals' during the annual mass spawning event and play an important role in helping their neighbors recover from disturbance events like coral bleaching," he said.
"The Great Reef Census is designed to help capture large-scale reconnaissance information on where these 'key source reefs' are located to help researchers and managers better target their resources."
CEO of Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef Andy Riley said the size of the reef means the task required a collective effort.
"To achieve the scale required as we scale up the Great Reef Census requires a massive collective effort and that's what we're seeing from the tourism industry, to some of the Reef's top scientists, tech companies and reef managers," he said.
"In essence we're utilizing the skills, vessels and knowledge of many passionate people to build a reef wide research flotilla."
The project is delivered in partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the University of Queensland and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. Enditem