Swimming Australia Athletes Explore Great Barrier Reef

Dolphins become Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef at Upolu Cay
Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia/Kate O'Callaghan

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On Saturday July 21, a group of 25 swimmers on the Australian Dolphins Swim Team swapped the pool for the coral-covered ocean on a Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef expedition to Upolu Reef just off Cairns.

The expedition is part of a global effort to raise awareness of the health of the Great Barrier Reef and the ways it is being impacted by issues like climate change and plastic pollution.

The idea for Reef expedition was conceived following a conversation between GQ Australia Editor Michael Christensen, Mack Horton and Citizens CEO Andy Ridley at the inaugural GQ Gentlemen’s Ball in Melbourne earlier this year.

“It was incredible to snorkel the Reef today and learn about what we can do as a team to protect it.” Cate Campbell said.

Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef (Citizens) is a Cairns-based non-profit spearheaded by Earth Hour founder Andy Ridley. Launched in 2017, Citizens is building a global movement to engage the world in the future of the Reef. By becoming a citizen you can connect with people and projects happening on the Reef, and take real action for the Reef wherever you are in the world.

Citizens recently launched a campaign to eliminate single-use plastics along the entire Great Barrier Reef. Not only does plastic pollution directly impact marine life, its production generates vast amounts of emissions which fuel climate change – the Reef’s biggest threat.

“Having Australia’s world-beating swimming talent out on the Reef and ready to help the global effort to protect our greatest natural icon was amazing,” Andy Ridley said.

The world of sport is not immune to the problem of plastic pollution, an issue highlighted by the Dolphins during their trip.

“1 million plastic bottles are sold around the world every minute.” Mack Horton said. “Plastic bottles are one of the most common single-use items found on beaches and in waterways around the world.

“That’s why I’m committing to ban them from my daily life and challenging my biggest competitor – Italian swimmer Gregorio Paltrinieri – to do the same!”

Just last month the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced plans to eradicate single-use plastics from the organisation and its events around the world as part of the UN Environment Clean Seas campaign.

Swimming Australia CEO Leigh Russell welcomed the opportunity for the Australian Dolphins Swim Team to be involved.

“As a sport that revolves around water, the conservation and protection of our oceans and their assets like the Reef and marine life is a cause close to our hearts,” Russell said.

“It’s been brilliant to bring the Dolphins to the Reef.” Andy Ridley said. “We hope they have been inspired by its beauty and share our message of hope, and the need for urgent action, with their supporters.”

With thanks to Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, Ocean Freedom and Tourism & Events Queensland who have supported this event.

The Dolphins will continue their Pan Pacs preparation in Cairns before flying out to Japan to take on the powerhouse swimming nations like the USA, Japan and Canada from August 9 to 13.

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