In October 2020 the Great Reef Census was launched as a citizen-science initiative that required the help of vessels to survey and photograph the Great Barrier Reef, 40% of which had never been mapped. Ocean Alliance, a Queensland-based superyacht brokerage and charter company, wanted to get involved, as did the owner of the 34.7-metre Moonen Beluga. No stranger to philanthropy, the yacht has participated in missions for the turtle sanctuary in Papua New Guinea’s Conflict Islands and for Take 3 for the Sea, which fights plastic pollution. No surprise then that she became the first superyacht to participate in the Great Reef Census. Rather than return empty to her Port Douglas base from a charter that had ended in Lizard Island in the reef’s north, her cabins were made available to marine scientists, a photographer and an engineer from Dell Technologies, which is working with the project to enable real-time data to be collected. “We were able to hop on the boat, and her crew helped us do surveys on its way home. It’s a classic example of the shared economy,” says Andy Ridley, CEO of Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef.
Ocean Alliance’s MD, Jo Howard, is optimistic more owners will get involved. Indeed, charterers could invite marine scientists aboard during their cruise to learn about their work, even if just for a few hours. “The Great Reef Census is a world-first to encourage yachting for purpose and make a contribution to the ecosystem,” he says.