Reviving Giants: A Journey into the Restoration of Tasmania’s Giant Kelp Forests

Robyn Foyster Robyn Foyster has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team


Aug 17, 2023

In the cool temperate waters off the coast of Tasmania, a battle is being waged to save the giant kelp forests, a once-thriving marine wonder now facing alarming decline. A new documentary, “Reviving Giants,” directed by marine biologist and filmmaker Stefan Andrews, takes viewers on an immersive journey into the heart of this urgent mission.

The Collaboration Behind Reviving Giants

The film, a production by the Great Southern Reef Foundation (GSRF), showcases a collaboration between Sea Forest, Eaglehawk Dive Centre, and the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania. This partnership has led to groundbreaking restoration efforts in Tasmania’s giant kelp forests, demonstrating innovation, determination, and a shared passion for marine conservation. In late 2022, they embarked on the first-ever forest-scale restoration of giant kelp in Australia. Six months after planting, the restored kelps are over 5 metres tall.

Understanding the Crisis

Rising sea temperatures are negatively affecting kelp in oceans around the world. The most threatened kelp forest species in Australia is the Macrocystis pyrifera, better known as giant kelp. Giant kelp forests on Tasmania’s East Coast have declined by over 95% in recent decades. In 2012, they were listed as a threatened ecological community under the Australian Federal Government Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, the first marine community to be given that designation.

The Restoration Efforts

The restoration of Tasmania’s giant kelp forests is an innovative undertaking and involves growing baby kelp that have been selectively bred to be more tolerant to warmer waters, in a lab onto twine. The second stage involves hand-planting them into the ocean where these giants once stood tall. The twine is tied to the holdfasts of other kelp species, creating a base for the string to grow. This technique has been developed over many years and is considered groundbreaking in marine restoration.

Reviving Giants

The People Behind the Mission

The film introduces viewers to key figures in the restoration efforts, including Mick Baron and Karen Gowlett-Holmes, owners of the Eaglehawk Dive Centre. Their dedication to exploring and documenting marine life is a central part of the story, emphasising the importance of the kelp forests and the urgent need for climate change action.

The restoration of Tasmania’s giant kelp forests is a monumental task, one that has been undertaken with determination and innovation by a collaborative team. Among the key players is the Sea Forest Foundation, backed by climate entrepreneur Sam Elsom. Working closely with the University of Tasmania’s Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (Imas), the Sea Forest Foundation has embarked on an ambitious project to seed a full half-hectare of lush kelp forest. Sea Forest’s involvement signifies not only a commitment to ecological restoration but a belief in the possibility of rebuilding an ecosystem that has been functionally extinct across most of the east coast, turning a tragic loss into a symbol of resilience and hope.

The Filmmaker’s Inspiration

Stefan Andrews, the filmmaker, was inspired by the resilience and beauty of the giant kelp forests and the innovative efforts to restore them. He shares, “The inspiration for Reviving Giants came from speaking with local legends Mick and Karen who have first-hand witnessed the decline of these majestic forests. The interviews I conducted with Mick and Karen were emotional and heartfelt, which gave me such quality material to work with for the film. It was really heartening to hear several months after the filming of the restoration outplanting that the kelps were doing well and growing at a rapid rate. 

The Film’s Impact and Future Plans

Reviving Giants is more than just a short documentary; it’s a rallying call for collective action. It emphasises the need for scalable restoration techniques and urges governments to take climate change seriously. The film also promotes ecotourism and inspires people to visit and see first-hand the results of these restoration efforts.

Reviving Giants

Awards and Recognition

A recent sold-out premiere event of Reviving Giants collaborating with Environment Tasmania was a huge success. The film screening was followed by an insightful Q and A session with IMAS researchers, Mick and Karen and SeaForest’s Sam Elsom. Reviving Giants has also been selected as a finalist for this year’s ‘Inspiring Change’ Short Film Competition for the Tasmanian Breath of Fresh Air Film Festival. This recognition underscores the film’s impact and its role in inspiring change in marine conservation and climate solutions.

Sam Elsom
Sam Elsom from SeaForest wins the Telstra Business Awards in 2022

The Great Southern Reef: Australia’s Hidden Treasure

Reviving Giants is just the beginning of a broader story about the Great Southern Reef (GSR), a vast network of kelp forests that stretches across Australia’s southern coastline. The GSRF is dedicated to celebrating and protecting this unique marine environment. Their mission encompasses education, community engagement, and scientific knowledge. They aim to engage with schools, run community events, and provide scientifically accurate information to help sustainably manage the GSR.

The GSRF has ambitious plans to engage with at least 80% of the schools across the Great Southern Reef by 2030. Through ocean literacy programs and resources, they empower teachers to teach about local marine systems, biodiversity, and threats, including climate change. They are passionate about creating resources for schools and spreading locally relevant ocean literacy.

Reviving Giants

Community events, film screenings, and artist celebrations are part of their strategy to build community and spark conversations. They also plan to run more events to celebrate artists inspired by the GSR and bring together various community groups, including surfers, divers, fishers, citizen scientists, conservationists, and general beachgoers.

The GSRF aims to be the knowledge broker of the latest research related to kelp forests in Australia. They have a scientific committee of leading temperate marine ecologists and provide easily digestible information on their website about various restoration programs, unique species, and other relevant information.

Support the GSR Documentary

The GSRF is working with Think Films and 57 Films to develop a Great Southern Reef feature documentary and need your support at this critical stage to help our project achieve a resounding impact nationwide. The project is endorsed by the Documentary Australia Foundation. You can support the film by making a tax-deductible donation here.


By Robyn Foyster Robyn Foyster has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team


Robyn Foyster is the owner and publisher of the lifestyle websites, and She is the only person to edit and publish Australia's three biggest flagship magazines - The Australian Women's Weekly, Woman's Day and New Idea. Robyn was Group Publisher of Bauer Media's most successful and prestigious magazines including Woman's Day, Good Health, Grazia and ran Hearst in Australia including Harper’s BAZAAR, Cosmopolitan and madison. Voted one of B&T's 30 Most Powerful Women In Media at the Women in Media Awards Robyn was a keynote speaker at Pause 2021, Cebit & J&J Women In Leadership. Robyn was also the winner of the prestigious Magazine Publisher Association’s Editor of the Year award.



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