Around the Reef - Reef Check Australia - April 2024

April 02, 2024

Dear Friend

The year is flying by and it is school holidays again with many families out and about camping, visiting our beaches and waterways or exploring new areas. We urge everyone to remember that they visit our amazing natural environment due to the aesthetic appeal of these areas, so please cause no harm to the environment, pick up rubbish (even if it is not yours) and dispose of all rubbish in the appropriate facilities. As the saying goes: "Leave only footprints, take only photos (and rubbish)"!

This months email includes:

  • Action of the Month: Connected Conservation: Celebrate Earth Day and Contribute to Ocean Knowledge!
  • News from the Field
  • Current Coral Affairs
  • Get With the Program

Connected Conservation: Celebrate Earth Day and Contribute to Ocean Knowledge!

Photo by Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

April whispers promise of renewal, and this year, Reef Check Australia invites you to celebrate Earth Day (April 22nd) with an adventurous twist – "Connected Conservation: Dive into Ocean Knowledge!" It's time to break down the walls between land and sea, understanding how our actions on earth ripple through the ocean's heart.

  • Be a Land to Sea Steward:

Earth Day isn't just about planting trees! Join a beach cleanup and witness firsthand how land-based pollution reaches our precious reefs. Organize a community garden near the coast, nurturing both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Choose sustainable seafood that supports healthy fish populations and protects ocean biodiversity. Every action, from your backyard to the beach, becomes a ripple of positive change.

  • Become a Citizen Science Champion:

This Earth Day, become a hero for the ocean by joining Reef Check Australia's citizen science programs. Learn simple yet impactful ways to monitor coral reef health, track marine debris, or identify fish species. Your data becomes vital ocean knowledge, informing conservation efforts and shaping a brighter future for our seas. Gather friends and family for a citizen science outing, transforming curiosity into collective action.

  • Share the Ocean's Wisdom:

Spread the love for the ocean and the power of connected conservation. Share your citizen science stories on social media using #ConnectedConservation and @reefcheckaustralia We want to know what you have been up to! Attend educational workshops about our interconnected ecosystems, sparking awe and understanding in your community. Read books, watch movies and share what you have learnt with those around you. Let's turn Earth Day into a month-long wave of knowledge, action, and celebration for the ocean that binds us all.

This April, let's go beyond Earth Day's traditional boundaries and embrace the ocean as an integral part of our planet's health. By understanding the connections, taking action, and sharing knowledge, we can turn the tide towards a thriving ocean and a sustainable future for all. Join Reef Check Australia, become a Connected Conservation champion, and dive into the ocean of possibilities!


News from the field

Stories and updates from our teams out & about. 

South East Queensland

Hancocks Shoal - Reef Health Survey

After months of watching the weather, planning and replanning due to high seas, high winds and average conditions, the Reef Check Australia team finally managed to find a small pocket of reprieve and took the opportunity to visit a site they haven’t managed to get to for a few years; Hancock Shoal. This shallow reef sits at about 9m deep, off the coast of Coolum (out from Stumers Creek) and was monitored in 2009, and had not been visited since due to its location. We were excited to be able to have the opportunity to check out this site and all it had to offer!

The surface ocean temperature was warm; warmer than we have previously recorded on the Sunshine Coast. Around the world, the Earth’s oceans are having their warmest start to a year on record as El Niño and climate change combine to produce unrivalled January-February sea surface temperatures.

Last year was the warmest year on record for Earth’s global oceans, with sea surface temperatures running at record high levels from mid-March until the end of the year. This unprecedented global ocean heat was caused in part by the warming effects of climate change and El Niño. What does this mean for local reefs? For Hancock Shoal; read on.

This site is an interesting site; similar in many ways to much of the patchy reef that makes up the wider Sunshine Coast reef areas. A mix of hard and soft corals, rocky substrate and small gulleys, offering ample habitats for all types of fish and invertebrates. Being so far away from large river mouths also allowed for clearer water, a lovely surprise!

It has been a while since we were able to survey this site, however it is nice to know that the coral population has been thriving. Hard and soft coral populations have increased, as well as sponges. A small amount of bleaching was recorded, with just one percent of the overall population being bleached; although individual corals were bleached completely. Drupella snails (a coral eating snail) and Drupella scars were recorded, some fishing line and a few unknown scars. Two anemones were the only other invertebrates recorded on the transect. Butterfly fish, sweetlip, snapper and a moray eel were recorded on the fish survey.

Thank you to Blue Tortuga Adventures for getting us to site. These vital reef health surveys are not possible without our amazing volunteers, so thankyou for all that you do!

Reef Check Acknowledge the Kabi Kabi people of the Sunshine Coast, Traditional Custodians of the land and sea country on which these activities took place, and we pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

This project is supported by the Sunshine Coast Councils Environment Levy Partnerships Grant.

Wavebreak Island - Reef Health Survey

Known locally as Wavebreak Island just across from the Gold Coast Seaway, what a surprising gem of a site! Established in 2019 by Reef Check Australia in collaboration with Gold Coast City Council, this spot boasts a rocky scree starting at 5m and plunging down to 12m.

We were expecting another routine survey dive, but oh, the wonders that awaited! We encountered a bustling ecosystem teeming with life. From barracudas to elusive moray eels and even a daring stonefish or two (ouch!), each section of our transect revealed a new surprise. A school of almost 20 butterfly fish came to check our team out and who could forget the majestic lion's mane jellyfish gracefully drifting by? Our encounter with a little rock lobster added a pinch of excitement to the dive but not as much excitement as the encrusting sponge between the rock, rubble sand and algae.

A few Drupella snails were recorded, along with plenty of debris, however no other target invertebrates or impacts were recorded.

Massive shoutout to our amazing team and a heartfelt thank you to Skipper Harry of Gold Coast Dive Adventures for getting us to site, for looking out for us on the surface and for taking care of the boat 🙌🚤

Reef Check Acknowledge the people of the Yugambeh language region of the Gold Coast, Traditional Custodians of the land and sea country on which these activities took place and we pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

This project has received funding support from The City of Gold Coasts Catchment and Citizen Science Grants Program.

Gold Coast Seaway - Reef Health Survey

Today’s survey expedition took us to our site at Gold Coast Seaway Pipeline established in 2015 by Reef Check Australia after initially conducting a clean-up dive and discovering the diversity of organisms and substrates at this site, and the potential for change over time. Exposed daily to heavy boat traffic and very popular with local snorkellers, fishers and divers alike, this site faces unique challenges from anthropogenic activities.

Our team were treated to lovely clear conditions giving them the best chance of documenting reef health and local impacts. This year we observed a similar abundance of target fish species, in particular butterflyfish and snapper compared to previous years and increased snapper.  We also saw three moray eels, and some very large stonefish along the transect. This site has a lot to offer and whilst we didn’t see any banded coral shrimp, lobster or collector urchins near our transect line this year, we did document a few drupella snails; a small coral eating snail; on rocks and other substrate.

Shoutout to our rock-solid dive team and legendary surface watch for making today both safe, and a real treat!

Thank you to Aqua Adventures for hiring us tanks, and to all our amazing volunteers who volunteered their time to help out. Your assistance is much appreciated as always.

Reef Check Acknowledge the people of the Yugambeh language region of the Gold Coast, Traditional Custodians of the land and sea country on which these activities took place and we pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

This project has received funding support from The City of Gold Coasts Catchment and Citizen Science Grants Program.

Clean Up Australia Day - Stradbroke Island

Reef Check Australia volunteers from the SEQ region joined Clean Up Straddie Day (CUSD) as part of Clean Up Australia Day (CUAD) 2024. We joined forces with the Marine Society UQ students and cleaned up South Gorge and Main Beach on Minjerribah/North Stradbroke Island. Our team collected over 4 kg of litter and found an overwhelming amount of microplastics around the South Gorge area.

It would seem that plastics are being retained on the South Gorge beach which could cause harm to native fauna as well as continue to pollute the ocean. We encourage anyone visiting this area to be mindful of their waste disposal and support efforts to keep our beaches clean.

Keep an eye out for future cleanups in the area to work towards a cleaner, healthier, and more pristine environment for us all to enjoy! Thank you to the Stradbroke Brewing Co. for facilitating the CUSD event, and all the other partners who participated in the cleanup.

We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Traditional Custodians and Elders of the land and their continued cultural and spiritual practices.

This project is supported by the Port of Brisbane as a part of their environmental monitoring program.


Great Barrier Reef

John Brewer Reef - Reef Health Survey

Finally getting a break in the weather our small team jumped onboard Adrenalin Dive and headed out to John Brewer Reef. This reef is approximately 70km offshore and is the location of the Museum of Underwater Art, but our survey sites are located on the reef on the northern side of the structures. The day started out rainy and stayed that way, but at least the seas were calm which made for a comfortable and speedy trip to site. Our team completed Reef Check Australia Reef Health Surveys on two sites. Site 1 is located at around 6m deep and follows the reef wall to the ocean side. Site 1 sits on top of the reef and depending on the tide can be between 0.5m to 3m deep.

Whilst there was plenty of very healthy coral and lots of fish were observed, the reef has sustained a fair amount of damage from Cyclone Kirrily. Significant amounts of damage and bleaching were observed but we also recorded a couple of giant clams, observed anemones with fish and a school of squid and a number of nudibranchs (much to the delight of the team).

Thanks to Adrenalin Dive and their crew for getting us to site. These surveys were conducted on the traditional lands and sea country of the Manbarra People. We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians and their Elders past, present and emerging.

Offshore Townsville Surveys are part of Reef Ecologic’s Integrated Coral Reef Citizen Science 2.0 Program, funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation


Books and podcasts

Have you read or listened to something lately that you would like to share? Let us know and we can feature it here

Marine Plants of Australia by John M Huisman

We love this book for helping to identify algae that we encounter within our marine environment. This revised edition released in 2023 includes 640 species of underwater plant life.

Current Coral Affairs

Check out some of the latest news and research about our ocean

When is a jellyfish not a jellyfish?

When it's a sea cucumber

Read now in: Dive Magazine

What was Jodi doing in Antarctica?

Find out in this interview with ABC News.

Places in this amazing program are still available so check out Homeward Bound.

Get with the Program

Here's what we've got coming up in the next few weeks, keep checking the website for more updates. 

4 Apr | Ambassador Training Starts - We still have spaces available so get in contact ASAP if you would like to join.

Want to become a Reef Check Australia ambassador? Head to our website for more information and to register.

10-12 Apr | Ocean Film Festival Brisbane - come say hi to our team at our stall on 10 & 11 April. Tickets at Ocean Film Festival

14 Apr | Land based Clean Up Waites Bay Whitsundays - spots are limited. Contact [email protected] if you are interested in helping out.

20 Apr | Snorkel Clean Up Grays Bay Bowen - spots are limited and date subject to weather/water conditions. Contact [email protected] if you are interested in helping out.

21 Apr | Underwater and Land Based Clean Up Alma Bay - Magnetic Island. spots are limited and date subject to weather/water conditions. Contact  [email protected] if you are interested in helping out.

30 Apr | Coast to Corals talk - stay tuned for more information

If you missed any of our Coast to Coral online events, remember you can always catch-up by taking a look at our YouTube Channel here  


Thanks for reading! If you want to help our work to empower more people to protect Australian reefs, please consider making a monthly tax-deductible donation. 



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