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2016 SO FAR...
Launch of SEQ Survey season! We've kicked off the 2016 South East Queensland subtropical reef monitoring season with the second phase of reef habitat inventory field activities to re-assess Moreton Bay's inshore reefs for the first time in a decade. Stay tuned for new maps!
We're also gearing up for a super-sized volunteer training course, with a huge new crew of enthusiastic volunteers who have been filling their brains with reef monitoring knowledge. Next month they will head out for field-based training and then out across SEQ all season long for monitoring trips!
We launched a blog! We'll be featuring a range of writers delving into all things reef! Check out the Reef-Minded blog.
RCA joined more than 2,500 coral reef scientists at the International We also presented in the citizen science session at the largest coral reef conference in the world, the International Coral Reef Symposium held in Hawaii. More than 2,500 coral reef scientists, managers, communicators and community organisations united to share knowledge and discuss future steps for translating science into positive action. The conference culminated in an open letter to the Australian Prime Minister calling for swift action and strong leadership to reduce carbon emissions to protect the Great Barrier Reef from ever-increasing threats due to coral bleaching.
Our Ambassadors and volunteers showcased subtropical reefs at World Environment Day Festival on the Sunshine Coast and at the Griffith University Coastal Symposium. Residents in Airlie Beach and Mackay participated in a one day crash course in coral reefs and two days of Dive Into Reef Check workshops. Sincere thanks to Reef Catchments for their event support via funding from the National Landcare Programme, as well as event partners Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership and the Environment Council of Central Queensland.
In the midst of a whirlwind of fieldwork, we finalised the report for our 2015/16 South East Queensland survey season.
In the wake of the third global bleaching event, Reef Check Australia survey teams have undertaken 24 surveys along the coast of Queensland since the start of March. Surveys have ranged from our new, most southern survey location at the Gold Coast's Kirra Reef all the way north to tropical reefs off Port Douglas. The impacts of coral bleaching have varied widely. On some sites, teams have recorded minor impacts on heat-sensitive corals, on other sites teams have reported some quite confronting scenes of localised bleaching impacts.
Southeast Queensland Surveys
Australia is on alert. The Great Barrier Reef is currently at the highest threat level for coral bleaching. There is growing evidence of high bleaching levels, especially in northern GBR... but how are our reefs in SEQ coping? RCA survey teams have been completing surveys along the Sunshine Coast and North Stradbroke Island. Low levels of bleaching were recently identified by our trained survey divers (average 2-10%), although nothing close to the levels recorded in some areas of the northern GBR. We'll continue to keep an eye on SEQ reefs and keep you up to date! Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council and Everyone's Environment Grant for supporting SEQ surveys.
Great Barrier Reef Surveys
The Reef Check Team recently established four new survey sites in the Mackay region. With help from the Mackay Dive Club and Megaforce Charters new sites were created on Keswick and Wigdon Islands. These reefs are located in the South Cumberland islands. While perhaps not as well-known as neighboring reefs to the north in the Whitsundays, surveyors were thrilled to visit these new fringing reef locations. Good to only see relatively low levels of bleaching (6-12%), given some more startling bleaching reports from other areas further north. Will be keeping in contact with local operators for any updates on condition. These sites help provide new knowledge of reef health and monitor changes in years to come. This project is supported through Reef Catchments and we look forward to continuing to expand our work in this region.
Amity Point Beach/Snorkel Clean Up
For several years, we have been supporting regular clean-ups at well-loved Amity Point, North Stradbroke Island. In March volunteers from Reef Check Australia, Clean Oceans Australia and Unidive PLEA got together at Amity Point for a Clean Up Australia Day clean up! Together the team collected over 42kg of lost fishing gear, adding up to an approximate of 25,000 meters of fishing line! Reef Check also set up a new survey site to better monitor this this heavily utilized site. Big thanks to everyone who came and helped on the day! This project is supported through the Queensland Government's Everyone's Environment Grant.
SEQ Subtropical Reef Surveys
The weather has been playing havoc with the SEQ survey schedule, but that didn't stop a team of amazing volunteers from showing inshore Moreton Bay some LOVE on Valentines Day! The team tried a different approach this time around with a reef walk survey at Macleay Island. It was a beautiful day out collecting long-term data to protect our subtropical reefs. A BIG thank you to our dedicated survey team. Moreton Bay surveys in 2015/16 are funded by Queensland Government Everyone's Environment Grants
Clean Up for the Hatchlings
It was a gray, slightly drizzly morning on February 6th, but despite that over 350 people from Coolum to Caloundra joined forces to clean up our coastlines in time for the sea turtle hatchlings to make their way down our beaches and into the ocean. Snorkelers joined beach goers in removing 548kg of rubbish from our coastal environment: an increase in the amount removed from the previous year. We hope to see this amount of rubbish decline as awareness increases about the harm trash can do to wildlife that also use our beaches and ocean. The cause of death in approximately 30% of sea turtles in Moreton Bay is the ingestion of plastic. A massive shout out to every single person who lent a hand in the lead up to the event, on the day, and with the follow up! Thanks to the Sunshine Coast Council's Turtle Care Program, UnderWater World Sea Life Aquarium and the Sunshine Coast Council's Environmental Levy Community Partnership program for their efforts and support of this event. Thank you also to theSunshine Coast Daily, Channel 7 and WIN News Sunshine Coast for covering this amazing effort!
Teaching Ocean Youth at Underwater World
Reef Check volunteers helped out with the Ocean Youth program at a sleepover at SEA LIFE Underwater World in Mooloolaba. This collaborative education program is an initiative of SEA LIFE Trust. Together with Sunshine Coast Turtle Care, the team introduced the 2016 class of Ocean Youth to the wonders of the marine world through hands-on workshops.
Ocean Youth is a program for kids aged 12-18 and teaches them to be ambassadors for our oceans. This year there are 26 students aged 12-15 in the program. Over the next 12 months, these kids will gain hands-on experience with marine life including reef research, turtle care and rehabilitation, snorkeling and scuba diving the Tangalooma wrecks, feeding dolphins, snorkeling with sharks, swimming with whales, and interacting with seals. Other hands-on activities will include a reef trip and health report using the REEFSearch program. A big thank you to Reef Check Australia volunteers for helping out with such a great program!
2015 SURVEY SNAPSHOT
Volunteer teams conducted more than 60 reef surveys along the Queensland coast in 2015. Surveys ranged from the warm tropical reefs of the GBR to the nearshore subtropical reefs of the Gold Coast. Teams documented notable bleaching across SEQ in early 2015, undertook the 5th annual collaborative survey project with University of Queensland Biophysical Remote Sensing Group on Heron island, and continued working with SEQ Catchments andQuandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation on Reef Check training and surveys to monitor the health of reefs around North Stradbroke Island. We also helped to boost other citizen science initiatives, supporting the Unidive PLEA Marine Conservation project to undertake ecological assessments of favourite local dive sites off North Stradbroke Island.
CHAMPIONING REEF CHECK AMBASSADORS
In 2015, our volunteers reached out to more than 20,000 people at community events and we had more than 19,000 unique website visits. To help empower and engage more people in reef science and conservation, we developed, launched and delivered a new initiative to train community outreach volunteers. Our 29 new Reef Check Ambassadors have been shouting from the rooftops about the unique subtropical reefs of Moreton Bay. We're gearing up for an even bigger impact next year as we seek to expand the Ambassador program locations! Townsville next up!
MAPPING MORTON BAY'S INSHORE REEFS
This collaborative project with University of Queensland Biophysical and Remote Sensing Centre and Healthy Waterways engages volunteers in monitoring and mapping Moreton Bay's subtropical reefs. The project builds on a 2004 coral baseline for the region, re-mapping coral distribution at 8 key coral locations and adding an increased level of detail about reef composition and condition with Reef Check surveys. Data from this collaborative citizen science project has multiple applications to build on scientific knowledge for inshore Moreton Bay and support evaluation of natural resource management targets. We'll be sharing more results soon!
We're pretty pumped to announce that we will be re-visiting more nearshore fringing reef areas surveyed in 2004 this year, with support from Healthy Waterways and Redland City Council. Stay tuned for updates.
We are very proud to host the Grey Nurse Shark Watch database. In 2015, the program continued to grow, supported by dedicated citizen scientists and a substantial increase in support from the diving community. Program supporters helped to offer a range of exciting prizes as an additional thanks and recognition of the efforts of contributing citizen scientists.
There are still plenty more prizes up for grabs for participating divers in 2016. Stay up to date via their Facebook Page. To help with big plans for 2016, the first Grey Nurse Shark Watch Volunteer Project Officers have taken on the challenge to help with the truck loads of work needed behind the scenes.
More than a decade of good work
To help celebrate our history and forge new strategic paths for the future, we have recently released the Citizen's and Reef Science report, celebrating RCA activities from 2001-2014. The summary report shares key data findings, projects and milestones.
This report forms the starting point of an ongoing initiative to translate RCA citizen science data into positive outcomes for reef, oceans and humans.
We intend to expand on the four case studies presented in this report with an ongoing series of case studies, exploring new data analyses and applications. If you have an idea, then we would like to hear from you.
As part of the development of this project we have had the opportunity to:
- Contribute to target reporting for the SEQ Catchments Natural Resource Management (NRM) Plan review
- Provide summary data for the Wet Tropics Water Quality Improvement Plan (WQIP)
- Liaise with NQ Dry Tropics regarding integration of RCA monitoring and community engagement in their NRM plan
- Strengthen communication and reporting with Reef Check International
- Engage in evolving discussions about next steps for data applications
This entire report from early days of consultations to this reporting milestone has been achieved through the commitment of passionate individuals. Thanks to everyone who contributed feedback as part of this momentous process. This project was funded by the Australian Government.