Around the Reef - Reef Check Australia - July 2023

July 11, 2023

Dear {{recipient.first_name_or_friend}} 

Can you believe it is already half way through winter and 2023? Our SEQ teams have been busy doing clean-ups (both above and below the water) and undertaking reef health surveys, whilst our GBR teams have been busy hosting stalls whilst we wait for our next round of surveys to begin. We would also like to say a BIG welcome to our new subscribers and stay tuned for our next Reef Ambassador and Reef Health Surveyor Training Courses. We hope to finalise dates for these shortly.

This months email includes:

  • Action of the Month: Plastic Free July
  • News from the Field
  • Brain Food
  • Current Coral Affairs
  • Get With the Program

Plastic Free July.

Lets chat about Plastic Free July!

If you haven't heard of this campaign before, it's a movement that started in Australia in 2011 and has grown into a global initiative to raise awareness about plastic pollution and encourage people to reduce their plastic usage.

The idea behind Plastic Free July is to challenge individuals to make small changes in their daily habits to reduce their plastic consumption. For example, instead of using single-use plastic items like straws, plastic bags, and water bottles, participants are encouraged to use reusable alternatives.

Reducing plastic consumption can be super overwhelming at first, but its all about starting small. Start using a reusable water bottle. Say no to single use coffee cups and either sit down, or BYO keep cup. Carry a reusable shopping bag, and choose naked products. These choices are not hard. they are all there for us to make. It's about making conscious choices that moves away from plastic convenience, and actively choosing to steer clear of single use plastic.

So our Action of the Month for July is this; Try Plastic Free July for yourself. Start with 1 day and see how you go. Nailed it? Go for another. Each of these actions is a ripple, and together, ripples create waves. And remember to share your wins and fails. Lets share our experience, and hot tips.

The impact of Plastic Free July may seem small at first, but it can have a significant impact when we all participate. By making conscious choices to reduce our plastic consumption, we can help protect our environment and preserve our planet for future generations.

Ready to check it out? Head to to sign up, to find out more and to be inspired! And if you need a reusable cup, bag or beeswax wrap.. head on over to the Reef Check Australia page and get ready for the month in style!

News from the field

Stories and updates from our teams out & about. Check out some of these regional stories on our website!

South East Queensland

Caloundra Outrigger Club Underwater Clean Up

During summer the Reef Check Australia team took the opportunity to clean up one of our in water clean up locations in Caloundra; the Outrigger.

This site has been previously identified as a marine debris hotspot due to its location along the river and the small rocky groin or pier capturing much debris as the tides moved back and forth. The site is also a popular fishing location, resulting in fishing debris often being found throughout the site.

This site sits south of our Bulcock Beach clean up location, also inside the Caloundra bar. The area has changed significantly over the last few months, due to the breakthrough occurring on Bribie Island.  We knew it would be an interesting spot to go back to visit after all these changes, so the team was excited to go and check it out.

The site has changed substantially since we last visited. Due to the ongoing rain and wind, we have had of late, the visibility was less than previously seen at the site, with the area covered in a layer of silt, making it important to keep an eye on the estuary floor in case of stonefish and the like.  Several fish, prawns and even an eel was spotted amongst the fishing tackle and lures underwater.  A broken and discarded crab pot was removed (it had no identifying markers, no name and no number as required) and several cans, bottles and shards of glass were found from below the water.

Above the water we had four more people join in, showing that beach clean ups can be a great family-based activity if done safely. Cigarette butts, bottle caps, fishing debris and light weight plastic made up the majority of our findings.

A total of 8kg from below the water and an additional 2kg of lightweight items (totalling more than 450 individual items) were removed from this well utilised area in just over an hour of cleaning up.

Remember, every little bit counts.  If you see rubbish on the beach; pick it up.  Together, we can and will make an ocean of difference.

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 has received funding support from the Queensland Government’s Community Sustainability Action grant program.

Green Island -  Summer Reef Health Survey

Moreton Bay put on a mighty fine show this April, with gorgeous sunny days, calm waters and beautiful clarity! With temperatures dropping above and below the surface, the Reef Check Australia team headed out to conduct a summer reef health survey at Green Island West to document any changes to the reef in the area since last we visited.

Reef Check Australia has been monitoring Southeast Queensland reefs since 2007, and Green Island (Danggar) Island since 2017, as part of a partnership with Port of Brisbane to monitor the effects of activities in the Bay. These locations are monitored twice a year (summer and winter) to detect any seasonal changes.

Green Island; a low flat wooded coral cay 2km in length and 1km wide is located 5km from Wynnum Esplanade, and has quite the fascinating history. For a detailed history, see our previous posts on the island, or check out this link for some fascinating info:

Reef Check Australia has two long term monitoring sites around the island.  This site; West is towards the West of the island (fancy that!) and has coral bommies interspersed throughout the area.

The site was beautifully clear for this time of year, with up to 6m of visibility. There was a high layer of silt covering much of the substrate. A nutrient Indicator Algae called Lobophora was found covering large portions of the area, with several bleached hard corals recorded; similar to Green Island North. A single butterfly fish was recorded at this site. Overall the site continues to surprise us with a diverse array of corals and other substrates found here, and we highly recommend checking the site out for yourselves!

We look forward to heading out again in a few months to continue monitoring any changes that might occur as a part of this long term monitoring program.

Thankyou to Go Dive Brisbane for getting us to our reef health monitoring site. We appreciate that many of the sites we visit are not regularly on the tourist circuit, although we believe they should be!

Reef Check Acknowledge the Quandamooka people, 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 future.

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


Inner Gneerings - Reef Health Surveys

With wind forecast to hit later in the afternoon, the Reef Check Australia team headed out to the Inner Gneerings first thing in the morning to survey our sites at The Caves. The Inner Gneerings reef is located offshore from Mooloolaba and is a popular diving and fishing location, with depths ranging from 10m to 25m.  Reef Check Australia has been monitoring site 1 for reef health since 2009. The site can be heavily impacted by Asparagopsis algae during the warmer months, however lower levels than usual were observed on this trip, much to the delight of our surveyors.

The site consists of rock with turf algae and scattered hard corals, predominantly the encrusting growth forms, and soft corals. Whilst we observed coral bleaching on all transects, at only 1% of the population, levels were low.

Reef Check Australia has been monitoring Site 2 for reef health since 2013. This site is located in proximity to Site 1 but was set up to gain a greater understanding of the health of this highly utilised reef area.

Similar to Site 1, the site consists of rock with turf algae and scattered hard corals, predominantly the encrusting type, soft corals and encrusting sponges. Whilst we observed coral bleaching on three transects, at only 1% of the population, levels were low. We also observed low levels of coral damage, disease and scars. Plenty of Asparagopsis, a seasonal macro algae was also found at this site.

Thank you to @‌bluetortugua Adventures for getting us to site and to all our volunteers. 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 Council’s Environmental Levy Partnerships Grant.



Peel Island - Beach Clean Up

Another gorgeous winter day in Moreton Bay, allowing he Reef Check Australia team to take full advantage of it, and head to Peel Island for a beach clean up.

The island is popular with locals and visitors alike, with the island often utilised as a beach stop, as evidenced by many items of food debris found strewn around the area. This site was selected as it has been previously identified as a marine debris hot spot, and most likely to accumulate debris due to the bays shape.

This activity forms part of a wider program to look at the ongoing impacts of the floods in early 2022, in addition to documenting the rate of attrition of marine debris in the area due to boating and fishing.

Approximately 10 kilograms of debris was removed from a 7000m2 area, with hard plastic, soft plastic, plastic bottle lids, aluminium foil and polystyrene being the most common items found. Single use cutlery and balloon string were found amongst lures, fishing line, toothbrushes, old clothing items, a fishing net and construction debris. Construction debris is regularly found at many of our clean up locations along the length of South East Queensland, with much appearing to come from up river.

Reef Check Acknowledge the Quandamooka people, 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 Queensland Government’s Community Sustainability Action grant program.


Great Barrier Reef

Eco Fiesta Cairns

Overnight rain didn’t dampen the spirits at the Cairns Eco Fiesta on Sunday 4 June 2023, with huge crowds coming out to visit the myriad of stalls with exhibitors covering everything from the Reef to the Rainforest. A fantastic range of food and beverage options kept the crowd nourished as they enjoyed the live entertainment and workshops. Our team were kept very busy with a constant flow of families, young people and the not so young quizzing our volunteers on the health of the reef, who Reef Check Australia are, and what we do.

A small reef survey display gave a visual representation of how we do what we do and provided a great chance to quiz our younger visitors on which items should not be there on the “reef”, with the majority correctly identifying the items we look out for. Our team used this opportunity to explain the dangers of plastic in the environment and how easy it was for them to help simply by collecting rubbish when they see it on the beach. Strong interest was garnered for our next ambassador and survey diver training courses, whilst many people expressed an interest in helping out at future clean-up events. We certainly hope to see these people again!

Our attendance at this event was made possible by support from Cairns Regional Council’s Community Sustainability Grant.



Low Isles Underwater Clean up

What better way to spend National Volunteer Week than diving the Great Barrier Reef to collect marine debris and data! In mid May, a team from Townsville and Cairns travelled to Port Douglas to head out to Low Isles for our annual underwater clean up as part of the Tangaroa Blue ReefClean project.

Although local tourism operators visit this location daily taking many tourists to visit this part of the Great Barrier Reef, we were pleased to find minimal debris at this location. Divers found 14 pieces of debris in total, and these were all found within close proximity to the public moorings. The most common finds were glass items, including beer bottles, jars, and an unopened bottle of wine! Divers also found a reef anchor, which has been passed on to be reused.

We would like to say a massive thank you to Wavedancer Low Isles for the ongoing support to our charity! Thank you giving us spots on your vessel to reach this location, supplying scuba tanks and to all of your amazing crew for all of their assistance and generosity throughout the day!

The ReefClean project is funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and delivered by Tangaroa Blue Foundation and a number of partner organisations including Reef Check Australia.

Reef Check Acknowledge the KuKu Yalanji and Yiragandi people of the Low Isles as the Traditional Owners of the land and sea country where these activities took place and we pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

Brain Food

Reviews and details on books, documentaries, and podcasts that we have come across, & wanted to share.

Weird and Wonderful World of Marine Worms: Tropical Indo-Pacific by Andrey Ryansky. One of a number of amazing ID books by Andrey Ryansky, available in pdf, hardcover and paperback.


Current Coral Affairs

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

'Catastrophic': Decade of loss on Australian reefs paints grim picture in new study.

Work must ramp up to protect what is uniquely Australian

Read in: 7 News

Credit: Alison Godfrey/AAP

Striped Pyjama Squid is never going back to the office

Read in: Australian Geographic

Striped pyjama squid (Sepioloidea lineolata). Image credit: Alexius Sutandio/shutterstock

Get with the Program

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

11 July | Coast to Corals - TBA - due to the Australian Marine Sciences Association Annual conference being held in the first week of July, we have postponed this months talk - stay tuned for details.

12 August | Whale Festival, Justin Park, Burleigh Heads. Free event. Visit their website for more details.

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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