If a location has insufficient opportunity fragments of corals, for example due to very low live coral cover, the next step is to propagate corals in a nursery that can then be out-planted. There are a number of important considerations in coral nursery practices that need careful scientific guidance. As with planting, a permit from GBRMPA is strictly required.
Nurseries are a significant responsibility and should be carefully considered before being undertaken. It is necessary to understand the genetic flow of populations within and between neighbouring reefs when designing the location for your nurseries, and decide how they are stocked. The nursery site should be easily accessed for maintenance. Regular monitoring is essential so that outbreaks of coral disease (and growth of fouling organisms such as algae) are minimised, and success (growth and survival) is measured.
During 2017 and 2018 we tested a new nursery design using cost-effective materials, readily available in Queensland. These are easy to deploy and remove and, if located correctly, are low maintenance with herbivorous fish keeping them clean. Scientific guidance is needed in deciding what to grow, but the actual nursery practices are low tech and easy to deploy and maintain if daily access is possible. This program enables small individual research coral nurseries to be deployed at tourism sites and be maintained by trained tourism crew.