Around the Reef - Reef Check Australia - June 2023

June 01, 2023

Dear {{recipient.first_name_or_friend}} 

Winter is fast approaching and water temperatures are dropping.  Our teams have been busy doing surveys, clean ups and attending events with lots more coming up in the very near future. Check out "Get with the Program" below to see where we are going to be in the next month or so. We have also done so many activities in the last few months that we can't fit them all in each newsletter so are including a few past events in here.

This months email includes:

  • Action of the Month: A chance to give back.
  • News from the Field
  • Brain Food
  • Current Coral Affairs
  • Get With the Program

A chance to give back!

National Volunteer week in May (15-21) celebrated the hundreds of thousands of volunteers donating millions of dollars’ worth of in-kind support to their favourite charities. For not-for-profit organisations the world over, volunteers make up an invaluable part of the workforce enabling groups to truly make stuff happen.

Volunteers are the backbone of not-for-profits. Groups like Reef Check Australia depend on the passion and dedication of volunteers to help get stuff done. There is always so much to do, and limited time to do it all in, which is why volunteers are absolutely so vital! We know that volunteering allows people to connect with each other and causes you care about, which can be incredibly fulfilling both professionally and personally. It allows you the opportunity to learn new skills, meet new people and make a positive impact on the environment and community around you. So for June, our Action of the Month is to think about how a local charity, or not-for-profit or community group or even a family or friend group has supported you to learn a new skill, to get back on your feet, to connect with new friends, to increase your social network, or get you out in nature. And when you think about these groups/friends/family; how can you offer support in return?

The last couple of years have been tricky for everyone, and a lot of not-for-profit groups have seen a decrease in volunteer rates due to increased busy-ness, and changes in life. Maybe you are an active volunteer, or maybe you were (AKA; a sleeper agent waiting to be reactivated). Maybe life has gotten in the way of late (hey, we aren’t judging, it's happened to us all!) and volunteering isn’t a priority any more. OR  MAYBE you are looking for a gentle nudge to say hey.. we see you. We appreciate you and we need you. Well. If so.. this is the sign you have been looking for.

Junes Action of the Month is to think of a way that you can support those around you. It might be friends or family, or it might be a local charity. It might even be us (wink wink).  We are always looking for new ways to get more people involved, to get people in the water, and helping clean up our coastlines. Or maybe time is still a little scarce at the moment, but you have money you would like to put to a good cause (all donations are tax deductible!) If you think you can help with time, or money; please, get in touch.

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

Gold Coast Volunteering Collective

On 9th March, Reef Check Australia attended the Gold Coast Volunteering Collective at the Broadbeach Cultural Centre. This was a fantastic event for volunteering organisations to collaborate, discuss issues, share information and to learn from each other. Local community groups and organizations working with volunteers came together and collaborated, discussed current volunteer sector pressures, generated awesome ideas and ate yummy morning tea!

The interactive morning included:

  • An update and discussion on the Gold Coasts Volunteering program of works;

  • A panel presentation led by local oganisations The Benevolent Society (Philomena Baumann), Radio Lollipop (Mathew MacDonald) and Volunteering Gold Coast (Brad Cooper) who shared key learnings form the 2023 National Volunteering Conference; and

  • A facilitated workshop and group discussion, that identified the priorities for the sector and future collective actions.

The morning was a fun filled event where Reef Check Australia came away with some new collaborative partnerships and lots of new inspiring ideas – watch this space for some exciting future Gold Coast Reef Check projects!

Thankyou to City of Gold Coast for the opportunity, and to Toni Massey, long term volunteer for attending the event, and for sharing her experience.


Beach Clean Up - Main Beach, Gold Coast

A group of Reef Check Australia volunteers took advantage of the beautiful weather to complete a beach clean up at Main Beach, Gold Coast. The team visited a beautiful stretch of beach between Surfer’s Paradise and the Spit on Tuesday 18th April. Given that this region is in close proximity to a developed shoreline, packed with restaurants, pubs, shops and apartment buildings, it is prone to littering and industrial waste disposal.

A total of 1.5 kg consisting of over 50 items of litter was removed from a relatively short stretch of coastline. Most items were in relatively good condition which indicates they were disposed of quite recently and were likely to have been disposed of by residents and tourists in the area. In particular, there were a large number of takeaway cups and paper straws collected, likely from nearby cafes and shops.

Overall, the most common items on the clean-up were takeaway containers, straws and plastic wrappers. Hard plastics, glass bottles, cans, shorts, shoes and baby wipes were just some of the items that were also removed from the beach. These items are commonly found amongst marine debris clean-ups Australia wide, as they are used on a daily basis and easily transported across oceans by rain, swell, wind & currents. It was encouraging to note that very few small/micro pieces of plastic were observed.

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

Reef Check Acknowledge the Yugambeh people 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 - Underwater Clean Up

What better way to celebrate Easter than with an underwater clean up! Well, that’s what this team of clean up divers thought , and with the gorgeous weather and clear waters after a long weekend of the Gold Coast Seaway south West Wall being used heavily for the easter holidays, it was the perfect time to check out how this interesting and heavily impacted site was holding up.

A team of five including two surface watch and three trained volunteer divers completed an underwater clean up along approximately 120m of rocky scree, sand and seagrass to cover 1200m2 of area in approximately 90 minutes.

This area has been monitored and cleaned up regularly by a variety of different dive groups over the years, and by Reef Check Australia since 2007, as funds allow. This site, despite being so heavily used, is often home to a wide variety of animals including large numbers of fish, urchins, nudibranchs and even seahorses.

We found plenty of collector sea urchins; many holding onto some of the lightweight plastic items we were targeting, as well as a few nudibranchs and lots of fish. 119 pieces of fishing line averaging 3m in length (that’s more than 350m of fishing line!), plus lures and sinkers etc were removed amongst pieces of lightweight plastic from the remains of plastic shopping bags.

Remember, every little bit counts. Pick up rubbish when you see it, and please dispose of fishing line and debris safely in the bins provided.

Thankyou to the volunteers who helped out! We cannot do this without you.

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


Gold Coast Seaway - Survey Dive

Braving the crowds that can always be found utilising this popular Gold Coast area, our team of trained volunteer divers headed to the Gold Coast Seaway to undertake our annual surveys. The site at the pipe was established in 2015 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. The site was established to better document the impacts this heavily utilised site faces from anthropogenic activities, in particular fishing. This site is located within the broadwater and is a very popular spot for fishing, boating, diving, snorkelling and swimming, with a set of steps making access to the water easy. Our survey site at the pipe runs parallel to the rock wall, as opposed to the more popular dive option of heading across the channel under the pipe. 

Visibility was excellent with the substrate dominated by rock with turf algae reaching a sandy base. Despite the unassuming appearance of the substrate, the site hosts a variety of marine organisms including tunicates, hydroids, sponges, nudibranchs and a variety of fish, including lionfish and stonefish. Our team recorded a small number of soft corals, and a number of target fish including butterflyfish, grouper, moray eels, snapper, and sweetlips. Invertebrates recorded include collector urchins, lobster, and banded coral shrimp. A stingray was also spotted passing the transect line on more than one occasion.

Thank you to Aqua Adventures for hiring us tanks, and to all our amazing volunteers who gave up their public holiday 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.

Sunshine Coast - Mudjimba Island - Survey Dives

With winds forecast to be favourable, the Reef Check Australia team was excited to jump in at Mudjimba Island and check out the deepest site on the southern side of the island and North-west Reef on the opposite side of the island. Reef Check Australia has been monitoring Mudjimba for reef health since 2013. The southern site sits at around 9m and is located on the reef slope dominated by encrusting hard coral, soft coral, anemones and other benthic invertebrates. The north-west reef hosts a variety of organisms but is not as heavily utilised as the south side.

Visibility was great, always a welcome surprise!  On the southern side, salps were found throughout the water column, and all over the boat before we diligently released each and every one back to the ocean. The substrate consists of rock with turf algae and scattered hard and soft corals, along with calcareous algae which acts like a cement to hold the reef together. We observed coral bleaching on all transects, but at only 1% of the population, levels were low. We recorded a few butterflyfish and a wobbegong shark, with a Triton shell observed off transect. These molluscs are a known predator of the Crown-of-Thorns Starfish so it is always great to see them protecting our reefs.

On north-west reef, we observed some coral bleaching on the first two transects, but at only 2% of the population, levels were low. Our team were excited to find several large spider conch shells and a variety of sea stars and nudibranchs.

Thank you to Blue Tortugua Adventures for getting us to site and a big thank you to our surveyor Lucy Wells for getting back into it and to one of our GBR Team Leaders, Jenni Calcraft for helping out even though she was on holidays. 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.

Moreton Bay - Peel Island Underwater Clean Up

The weather put on a show for the team in early April, allowing them to access Peel Island for an underwater clean up.

Peel Island is a small, heritage-listed island and national park located in Moreton Bay, just 4km from the mainland at Cleveland. The island is known for its natural beauty and wildlife enjoyed by locals and visitors alike and is accessed only by boat or watercraft.  The island has an interesting history. To read all about it, check out some of our previous posts.

The island is a popular fishing and area, with tens of boats often anchored in Horseshoe Bay due to the area offering protection from many winds, and a safe spot to swim.  This site was selected as it has been previously identified as a hot spot. Sitting close to Platypus wreck, and close to a beach entry point, this area is commonly used. Due to the large number of people visiting the area, it is often littered with fishing debris as well as additional recreational items.

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 400m2 area, including 6 glass bottles, approximately 35meters of fishing line, several lures and sinkers, pieces of broken glass, metal shards and a long rope. A large metal structure was located; which looked to be a piece of a boat, however this was left in place due to the amount of coral growth on the structure. With larger amounts of the reef suffering large impacts due to the floods and recent storms, we want to ensure live coral remains that way.

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.


Brain Food

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

Marine Plants of Australia by John Huisman. Do you know your algae?? Check out this handy reference guide.

How to speak Whale by Tom Mustill sounds like an enthralling read. Tom had a hump back whale land on his kayak - this would certainly make your day interesting!!.

Current Coral Affairs

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

Plastic Rocks Found On Remote Volcanic Island Are A "Terrifying” Discovery

At first, scientists couldn’t identify the strange bluish-green rocks so they ran chemical tests on them and… oh.

Read in: IFL Science

Sea cucumbers have a Spiderman-esque superpower—and it involves their butts

Mess with the cuke, get the goop.

Read in: Popular Science

Scientists discover pristine deep-sea Galápagos reef ‘teeming with life’

Diving to 600m, researchers find reefs full of octopus, lobster and fish, raising hopes for corals’ survival amid rising sea temperatures

Read now: Guardian News

Get with the Program

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

2-4 June | Pranafest - Borumba deer Park. For more information and tickets head to

4 June | EcoFiesta Cairns - Come visit our team - see here for more details

4 June | LEAF - Griffith Uni Campus Meadowbook - click here for more details

6 June | Coast to Corals - Crown of Thorns Management - Register Here:

11 June | Our Townsville Event - Check out this great event - for more details head to What's on Townsville

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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