Around the Reef - Reef Check Australia - July 2024

July 02, 2024

Dear Friend

We've been experiencing some incredible weather recently, and despite the chill, it's been keeping our teams incredibly busy. From conducting surveys and underwater clean-ups to training our surveyors and attending various events, there's been no shortage of action. A big congratulations to our newly trained surveyors who have successfully completed their in-water training and are now gearing up for upcoming surveys.

As Plastic Free July kicks off, be sure to stay tuned for all the exciting events happening in your area. Join us in making a difference—pop along and get involved!

This months email includes:

  • Action of the Month: Unveiling the Plastic Pendulum - From Reliance to Revolution
  • News from the Field
  • Books and Podcasts
  • Current Coral Affairs
  • Get With the Program

Unveiling the Plastic Pendulum - From Reliance to Revolution

This July, Reef Check Australia invites you to join a bold experiment: Let's examine our plastic pendulum. For one month, we'll swing from passive consumers to conscious actors, understanding the plastic web we've woven and taking control of the future.

Start with a Self-Discovery Dive: Conduct a personal plastic audit. Unpack your pantry, unpack your habits. How much plastic clings to your life? Analyse, categorise, and be honest. This isn't judgment, it's a crucial step towards mindful change.

From Awareness to Action: Immerse yourself in the ocean's vulnerability. Read articles, watch documentaries, witness firsthand the plastic tide washing over coral reefs. Understanding the scope of the issue amplifies our responsibility and ignites the fires of change.

Small Swaps, Big Impact: Forget overwhelming overhauls. Focus on simple, achievable modifications. Ditch plastic straws, carry a reusable water bottle, embrace cloth bags, choose cardboard over plastic packaging. Every tiny shift ripples outward, creating a wave of collective impact.

This July, let's swing the pendulum in unison. Dive deeper, understand the plastic dance, and choreograph a new routine – one where respect for the ocean guides our every step. Join Reef Check Australia, become a conscious consumer, and dance towards a plastic-free future. Together, we can rewrite the rhythm of our planet, one mindful choice at a time.

Let's make July a month of conscious reflection and impactful action, swinging the plastic pendulum towards a healthier ocean and a brighter future for all

News from the field

Stories and updates from our teams out & about. 

South East Queensland

Tallebudgera Creek - Clean Up Dive

Reef Check Australia volunteers were blessed with some amazing weather on 13 April 2024 for our annual Tallebudgera cleanup event. We started the day collecting items from the shoreline around Kevin Gates park, before heading underwater for a dive cleanup.

In good news, there was definitely a reduction in the amount of rubbish collected around the park, with fewer plastic items collected than last year. However, we still collected quite a bit of fishing waste including fishing line and plastic bait bags. Underwater, we collected an overwhelming amount of fishing line, lures and hooks. One diver alone collected over 20 pieces of fishing line, 5 lures, 7 hooks, 8 weights, and 2 bottles. In total we collected over 2 kg of rubbish, with the majority collected underwater.

Remember to fish responsibly and make use of designated waste bins. This goes for any waste items being disposed of near our natural waterways and beaches. Plastic items and fishing line can be ingested by marine life or cause entanglements which can be fatal. Plastic items in particular have also been shown to leach toxic chemicals into the environment. Not to mention that rubbish detracts from the beauty and cleanliness of our natural land/seascapes. Simply disposing of your rubbish in the correct bins after a day at the beach, or avoiding single-use plastic items can go a long way. Let’s keep our community clean together!

Reef Check acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands on which we live and work. We would also like to thank all our sponsors and supporters whose make these events possible. And of course, a massive shoutout to all our amazing Tallebudgera volunteers: Gabriella Scata, Jarrod Cameron, Sabrina Morrison and Carly Parry.

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

Landcare Awards

Congratulations to all the incredible nominees and winners of the 2023/2024 QLD Landcare Awards!

We joined people from all over Queensland a couple of weeks ago virtually watch the QLD Landcare Awards ceremony last week, and what an inspiring event it was!

A huge congratulations to all the incredible nominees and winners. Your dedication to protecting Queensland's natural resources and building resilient landscapes is truly awe-inspiring. From sustainable agriculture to community partnerships, to clean ups above and below the waters surface, education and community outreach, each project showcased amazing innovation and a deep passion for our environment.

We're so grateful for all the landcare heroes out there making a difference! Let's give a big shout out to these amazing Queenslanders.


La Balsa - Mooloolah River - Reef Health Survey

Written by survey diver, Sally Richards

On the Sunshine Coast, near the Mooloolah River mouth, is a site at La Balsa north, which was set up in 2018 due to growing interest in the area. The site runs parallel to the shore, at a depth of 5m. It is a popular swimming and fishing location for locals and visitors alike due to its easy access and protection from the wind. It is dominated by rock and sand, but is also home to the occasional nudibranch, and rare sights like pipefish and seahorses have also been reported!

The reports thus far had been during the months of October to February, so it was interesting to see what, if any, differences could be seen during the outlier of June. While perhaps not relevant to the month itself, the most current three reports have shown a significant increase in Butterfly Fish seen. Snapper over the past two years have also proven to be a lot more abundant than the previous years, which is a promising sign for the area, despite its popularity for fishing. There was also an unusual sighting of two large fish, including Barracuda!

Unfortunately, however, the impacts of trash have also been steadily increasing at La Balsa. The main culprits being a sharp uprise in glass bottles and fishing line, though car tyres and even a “disposable” vape had also been found. While we should all understand the detriment to the environment, and in turn, ourselves, in regards to plastic in our waterways, we need to understand that glass bottles also have no place there! A study from the University of South Hampton has found that glass bottles are four times more environmentally damaging than plastic – when you consider the amount of energy and natural resources used during creation and shipping. While plastic bottles can be reused 12-20 times, most glass bottles (wine and beer especially) are thrown out after a single use. According to the CSIRO, many countries are close to recycling 100 per cent of their glass. But in Australia, more than a quarter of the glass we consume becomes rubbish that goes to landfill. This is obviously not even including the ones found in our local waterways!

Please remember not to litter, and to spread the word if you do see it happening, from shore or boats alike – Keep Australia Beautiful! (And PS there is such a thing as bio-degradable fishing line!)

Thank you to our Reef Check Australia survey divers for collecting and disposing of all they could, responsibly. Big thanks to Jodi, Phil, Christa and Sally for their ongoing efforts, and congratulations to Sally for completing her RCA survey course on the weekend, and following it up with her first survey for this event.

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.

Mudjimba Island - The Ledge - Reef Health Survey

Written by Misa Nirasawa, survey diver in training;

After 4 months of high seas, strong winds and plenty of rain the Reef Check Australia team eagerly set out to survey Mudjimba (Old Woman) Island, a site we visit annually and last surveyed in April 2023.

We were happy to discover a relatively small amount of coral bleaching at this particular Mudjimba Island Site, with only 5% of the overall population bleached. However, those bleached colonies were heavily impacted, with an average of 60-70% bleaching. We also recorded a number of bleached anemones without fish.

At Mudjimba shallow reef, a mix of hard corals, soft corals, rocky substrate and algae provides habitat for many species, from small invertebrates to larger animals. For instance, we recorded nudibranchs, a lobster, wobbegong sharks blending into the reef floor and a sea turtle feasting on algae. If devastating bleaching was to occur at a mass scale at Mudjimba Island, it would affect all these creatures who call this reef home. Sadly, we also recorded entangled fishing line and boat anchor damage on both hard and soft corals.

As a new member of Reef Check Australia, this was my in-water training day to become a scuba surveyor and a PADI Reef Check EcoDiver. The instructor was very knowledgeable and made it a very fun experience for the whole team. I am very excited for my upcoming journey with Reef Check Australia.

Thankyou to RCA Instructor, Jodi Salmond, and co-surveyor-in-training dive buddy, Sally Richards. You both did fantastically, and we are so excited to see you in the water!

A big thanks to the team of Blue Tortuga for getting us to our site.

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.

Great Barrier Reef

Florence Bay - Magnetic Island - Reef Health Survey

Our team headed out to beautiful Magnetic Island on an amazing day to survey the reefs that lie within Florence Bay. These reefs are accessible from shore, with the corals occurring on the rock walls on either side of the bay, making this a popular snorkelling spot. The amount of hard coral st Site 1 decreased slightly from our last survey (50% down to 40%), but Site 2 saw an increase (from 44% to 52%) with slightly more rubble detected at both sites. Nutrient indicator algae was not recorded on the point transect at either site which is a decrease from previous years. Coral bleaching was only recorded on 3 of the 8 transects, with less than 1% of the population impacted. Overall the impacts recorded were minimal however we did find one fin, one mask strap and one mask (minus the strap) at different locations along the transect on Site 2.

This project is made possible through support from Townsville City Council through their Creek to Coral program, and the 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. We would like to also thank Dave from Affordable Charters for supplying the boat and tanks and getting us to our sites.

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on where these activities take place, the Manbarra and Bwgcolman people of Palm Island, and the Wulgurukaba and Bindal People of the Townsville and Magnetic Island region. We pay our respects to their elders, past, present and emerging and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in our community today.

Fitzroy Island – Clean Up Above and Below water

Our Reef Check Australia GBR team recently embarked on a beach and underwater clean-up at Welcome Bay, off the coast of Cairns, as part of the ReefClean program.

🚮 From removing glass bottles to fishing lines, every piece of trash collected makes a difference. We stumbled upon unexpected treasures like a car tyre, a decommissioned mooring line, and lots of fishing lines (which we removed) next to a mooring block hosting a plethora of marine life! No fish or turtles will get entangled here on our watch! We gathered over 6 metres of fishing line and 9kg of debris from underwater and the sandy shores.

👏 Huge thanks to our partners at Reef Restoration Foundation for supplying scuba cylinders to the team and Fitzroy Island Sports Hub for storage of gear. Of course, thankyou to volunteers Jules and Maddy for their time and good vibes. Special shout out to Jules Lim for volunteering with Reef Check Australia for 10 years now and, even better, unbeknownst to us, celebrating her 700th dive with a clean-up!

Reef Check acknowledges the Gurabana Gunggandji people 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.

The ReefClean program is funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and delivered by Tangaroa blue and several partner organisations, including Reef Check Australia. Join the movement for a cleaner, healthier Great Barrier Reef!

Horseshoe Bay - Bowen - Reef Health Survey

With winds having abated and visibility vastly improved we jumped in at Horseshoe Bay in Bowen to conduct our inaugural Reef Check Australia reef health survey at this site. This site faces east and has fringing reef along the rocks on either side of the bay, plus a reef that runs almost right across the bay at around 4m depth. It is also home to “Bywa” which is part of the underwater art trail. “Bywa” comes from a traditional word of the Kala Lagaw Ya dialect of the Western islands of Torres Strait and translates to “waterspout”. Whilst the sculpture sits on the sand on the southern side of the bay, we conducted our survey along the corals on the northern side of the bay.

This site is not subject to currents but is impacted by easterly and south-easterly winds. We chose the northern side of the bay to encapsulate the most reef at snorkel depth. Hard coral was the dominant substrate at 61%, dominated by massive and branching forms followed by rock (including rock with turf algae) at 21%. We recorded an average colony bleaching of 10% during the impact survey but at less than 1% of the population. Target invertebrates were not observed but fish were recorded with 20 butterflyfish the most dominant. We also conducted a CoralWatch survey and an Eye on the Reef Rapid Survey with all data uploaded to the relevant websites.

This survey were conducted on the traditional lands and sea country of the Ngaro, Gia and Juru People of the Whitsundays. We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians and their Elders past, present and emerging.

This project is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government's Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

Alva Beach - Ayr - Beach Clean Up Collaboration

On a glorious autumn day, two of our Reef Check team joined the team from Wildlife Surrounds, AUIP (American Universities International Programs Limited) and UT Austin to undertake a beach clean up and AUSMAP sampling at Alva Beach, just east of Ayr, QLD.

Following a brief classroom presentation, the team headed out onto the beach and collected an assortment of debris which they catalogued and counted, with all data uploaded to the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) database. The students also split into groups and were shown the process for sampling microplastics using the AUSMAP methodology. It was fantastic to receive feedback from the students revealing their new appreciation for the impacts of litter on the marine environment.

A big thanks to Wildlife Surrounds for inviting us to be part of this event. This clean up was conducted on the traditional lands of the Birra Gubba People in the Burdekin region. We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians and their Elders past, present and emerging.

To find out more about Reef Check Australia and how you can get involved check out the website, and sign up for our enews letter to stay up to date!

Photos provided by Wildlife Surrounds with permission from students and faculty.

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

We are all aware of the bleaching event happening on the GBR. What is being done to save our reef?

In Hot Water by Dr Paul E Hardisty


Current Coral Affairs

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

Marrus orthocanna

Another marine curio related to the Portuguese man o'war.

Read now in: Dive Magazine

Big Tiger Sharks at Norfolk Island

and scientists want to know why (don't they always?)

Read now in: National Geographic

Get with the Program

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

Sat 13 July | Whale Festival Gold Coast - check out Humpbacks and Highrises on facebook for more details.

Sun 21 July | Peaks to Points Family Fun day Rocklea visit for more information.

Plus there will be lots more coming up soon so remember to follow us on socials.

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  

and don't forget our annual reports by region are available on our website!

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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