Thursday, November 2, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Young Achiever, Reef Crusader

It was no surprise that Ocean Rafting’s Environmental Manager, James Unsworth, won the Young Achiever of the Year Award at the Whitsunday Tourism Awards recently, but the humble environmental ambassador had kept his nomination quiet, so no-one expected him to take out the top gong.

As a result, a crowd of 39 of his workmates erupted with excitement as the inspiring young man made his way to the stage to accept the award.

“It was very nice to be nominated but I didn’t tell many people, so the rest of the crew were really surprised!” he said.

“I was lucky enough to take one of the judges for our other award submissions out on a trip and talk about the reef, so it was really good to be part of the whole process.”

James has worked for award-winning local tour company, Ocean Rafting, for the past six years and during that time he has been the driving force behind not only educating guests but also encouraging other team members to share his passion for reef protection.

“This award is a real team effort and reflects all the work we do as a team,” said James.

“My role has been to try and engage staff and influence the crew to deliver a range of reef protection programs.

“I think that’s perhaps what the judges noticed in the submission.”

Renowned as much for their environmental conscience as they are for their spirit of adventure, Ocean Rafting are at the forefront of many environmental initiatives and are always among the first to put their hands up to survey and protect the reef.

One of James’ favourite projects is the Reef Seeker Program, which is an educational school initiative started by the company during the pandemic.

Delivering Eye on the Reef and Citizen Science programs, James helps children study and survey the reef, reporting all data back to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Parks Association (GBRMPA).

Last financial year, Ocean Rafting took more than 2,000 students out to the reef, with over half of them actively involved in the Reef Seeker Program.

Additionally, the crew are all involved with the Reef Protection Initiative which actively monitors the health of the reef around the islands.

They have conducted 1,400 reef survey expeditions over the past 10 months and successfully controlled 40 Crown of Thorns Starfish and 800 Drupella Snails, which are known to damage the reef ecosystems.

James and the team are also heavily involved in quarterly marine debris clean-ups, aerial monitoring of whales, monthly water quality surveys and the Coral Nurture Program.

“I encourage anyone who has a passion for protecting the reef to come out and experience it with guides who are leading the way in reef protection initiatives,” said James.

“They can seek volunteer opportunities and engage – people want to have meaningful experiences and we can help them achieve that dream.”

James Unsworth loves sharing his passion for reef protection with passengers on Ocean Rafting. Photo credit: Rachael Smith

Ocean Rafting’s Environmental Manager, James Unsworth, won the Young Achiever of the Year Award at the Whitsunday Tourism Awards. Photo credit: R Jean Photography

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