Around the Reef - Reef Check Australia - March 2024

March 03, 2024

Dear Friend

Wow it's autumn already and we are still having mild heatwaves and strange rainfall patterns. Our teams have been out and about doing surveys and clean ups plus we bring you some more of our activities from the end of last year. We would also like to welcome our new trainee surveyors from across Qld who are part way through their training. We look forward to having them on our surveys once they finish.

This months email includes:

  • Action of the Month: Autumnal Awakening: Clean Up Your World with Reef Check Australia! 
  • News from the Field
  • Current Coral Affairs
  • Get With the Program

Autumnal Awakening: Clean Up Your World with Reef Check Australia!

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

As the warm autumn air paints the landscape in fiery hues, it's time to shed the summer's languor and embrace a season of renewal. This March, Reef Check Australia invites you to embark on an "Autumnal Awakening: Clean Up Your World" mission, a chance to declutter not just your home, but also your mind, your community, and most importantly, our precious ocean.

1.De-stress and Reconnect:

Autumn mornings still offer plenty of sunlight, making early morning walks along the coastline, and ocean dips the perfect start to the day. Listen to the waves crash, the pandanus and or gum treees whisper, and take a deep breath with them. March is full of opportunity. Why not connect or reconnect with your RCA team! Join a reef health survey, or a rockpool ramble. Dive into the vibrant coral world, and let the rhythm of the ocean lull your worries away. By calming your mind and nurturing your spirit, you'll radiate positive energy that ripples outward, enriching both yourself and the environment.

2.Spruce Up Your Backyard Paradise:

Summer rain and winds have left their remnants for us all to see. Autumn winds offer us the perfect excuse for a garden clean-up. Organize a local creek clean-up, or join in one of ours; Clean Up Australia events are held around the country this March 3rd. Volunteer to take part in our coral restoration project, pick up rubbish on your next walk, or simply pull invasive weeds from your own backyard. Every native shrub planted, every piece of plastic removed, is a victory for the creatures who call our land and sea home. Remember, a clean environment is a healthy and thriving paradise for everyone.

3.Champion a Vibrant Ocean Future:

Just like leaves falling to nourish the earth, our voices have the power to nurture a cleaner ocean. Spread awareness about marine pollution, support sustainable seafood initiatives, and urge your local council to champion ocean health policies. Remember, even small actions, like using reusable coffee cups and choosing recycled paper, add up to a powerful tide protecting our beloved ocean.

This March, let's embrace the spirit of autumnal change and clean up not just our surroundings, but also our minds and hearts. Together, with Reef Check Australia as your guide, we can create a cleaner, healthier, and more vibrant world for ourselves and for the ocean we love. So, join us, take action, and let's make this autumn a season of positive change, one autumn leaf at a time!


News from the field

Stories and updates from our teams out & about. 

South East Queensland

Clean Up for Hatchlings Snorkel.

On a cloudy, rainy Saturday morning, several keen Reef Check Australia ambassadors and volunteers gathered at La Balsa Park, Buddina. This special occasion was to mark the 10th anniversary of an event co-founded by Reef Check Australia, Sunshine Coast Council, and Sea Life Aquarium called Clean Up 4 the Hatchlings (CU4TH). The purpose of this event is to ensure the beaches we share with critically endangered nesting loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) are free of plastic and other anthropogenic items left by humans. Each year the program has slowly grown into a bigger and better event, with this year hosting its underwater cleanup on January the 13th by the Mooloolah River.

Several Reef Check Australia team leaders as well as the wonderful team over at 10 little pieces collaboratively led an avid and keen volunteer group of snorkellers on a joyous underwater adventure in an attempt to clean the popular park and river from marine debris deposited by beach and parkgoers as well as marine debris washed in from the ocean. We had to navigate through bouts of rain and wind to rid the popular park and river of marine debris, including tangled fishing lines, plastic bags, bottles, and cans, totalling 149 items weighing 3.5kg. The underwater cleanup proved not only an environmental mission but also an educational one. As we worked, we engaged with local beach and parkgoers, seizing the opportunity to raise awareness about the impact of plastic waste and the importance of environmental stewardship. This dialogue is a crucial element of our mission, highlighting individual responsibility and the collective power we have in safeguarding our marine ecosystems.

Wrapping up the day, our volunteers, some of whom alternated between snorkelling and land-based efforts, left with a sense of accomplishment and a deeper understanding of the marine environment. Our actions at La Balsa Park are a part of a larger campaign, with more cleanups across Noosa and Sunshine Coast areas in February as a part of the land based CU4TH event. At Reef Check Australia, we remain dedicated to fostering a community actively engaged in preserving our coastal ecosystems, continually working towards a sustainable and vibrant marine future.

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 Acknowledges the Kabi Kabi peoples of the Sunshine Coast, the 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 Sunshine Coast Council’s Environment Levy Partnerships Grant.

Little Halls Reef - Noosa Reef Health Survey

Spotting a break in the weather, the Reef Check Australia team headed to Noosa last October to check out Little Halls Reef.  Little Halls is a shallow reef (12-15m) popular with local fisherman. It is a small narrow ridge consisting of a coffee rock base with encrusting corals, soft corals, sponges and ascidians making up the majority of the vertical benthos. Site was was set in 2011, with Site 2 set up in 2019 as a part of an extension of reef health monitoring in the region. 

Coffee rock is a unique formation that can be found along Queensland's coastline, where coastal processes meet fluctuating sea levels, lies a unique formation called coffee rock. This soft, dark brown rock is essentially hardened sand, bonded by organic matter from decaying plants. Its story starts with humic acids leaching through sandy soils, encountering aluminium-rich groundwater, and solidifying into a distinct layer beneath the surface. Interesting, right!

Sponges and Ascidians with a very small portion of hard and soft corals made up the benthos amongst rock, sand and nutrient indicator algae.

Three anchors were found at Site 1 with four anchors found at site 2. Drupella snails (34 & 72 respectively) and pencil urchins were the only invertebrates recorded. Drupella are coral eating snails, however at this location, none of the snails were found on live coral. Coral Trout, Snapper, Butterflyfish and Sweetlips were also found at this location.

Thank you to Blue Tortuga Adventures for getting us to site and making sure all activities are safe. A massive thank you to all of our surveyors and coordinators behind the scenes that make these surveys happen! 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 Noosa region, 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 Noosa Shire Council

Jew Shoal Noosa Reef Health Survey

The Pinnacles Site 1 was set up as a long term monitoring site in 2009, with Site 2 added in 2013. The site sits at approximately 9-12m with the top of the reef at 4-5m.

Jew Shoal is located in Noosa’s Laguna Bay. The site itself is a large area made up of canyons, ridges and bommies, with two main features; the pinnacles. The gutters and rocky substrate is covered in colourful hard and soft corals.  This site was last monitored in 2019.

The site is dominated by encrusting hard coral, soft coral, rock, sponge and ascidians. Anemones, long spined sea urchins, pencil urchins and Drupella snails were recorded during the invertebrate surveys. Seventeen pieces of fishing debris was recorded and removed from site 1. A small amount of bleaching was recorded, however only one percent of the population was impacted overall. Butterflyfish, snapper and sweetlip were spotted along the transect.

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 Noosa Council.

Great Barrier Reef

Magnetic Island Geoffrey Bay Reef Health Survey

In early November a small team from Townsville headed to Magnetic Island for our annual reef health surveys. In Geoffrey Bay, we have two survey sites along the snorkel trail, these sites are some of our newer ones being established in 2016. Geoffrey Bay is the location where coral spawning was first discovered back in 1981, and our surveys this year followed immediately after the annual spawning event here.

Coral cover at this site had been consistently high over the 8-year period it has been surveyed with approximately 65% hard coral cover observed this year, and minimal coral bleaching. Some coral scars (cause unknown) and coral damage (likely caused by human impact as there has been a lot of snorkeller and diver activity at this site over the coral spawning period) were recorded along the transects. The team also had the pleasure of seeing an epaulette shark along the transect, a common reef shark species found around Magnetic Island!

A special thanks to our surveyors Joan and Rachelle and surface watch Aabha for making this trip possible, and being available at short notice to make the most of the decent conditions whilst they last! Also thank you to Pleasure Divers for tank hire, allowing us to complete these surveys.

This project is made possible through support from Townsville City Council through their Creek to Coral program, 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, and Reef Ecologic.

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.


Whitsundays, Hook Island Clean Up

Our small team took advantage of some nice weather and conducted an underwater clean up dive in Luncheon Bay at Hook Island in October. The corals were noted to be very healthy and, as on previous occasions, no debris was observed during our one-hour search (which is good news for the reef).  We opted to defer the land based clean up and waited until we had experienced an extended period of strong North and North-easterly winds. This site on Hook Island faces North and was therefore more likely to be impacted by marine debris following these winds.

The beach is composed of coral rubble of various sizes and the beach front is currently a very steep grade into the water. Our team scoured the beach and adjoining bushland and were happy to report very low litter loads again. The rough nature of the beach does provide the opportunity for smaller items of debris to travel down between the rubble pieces and out of sight, but our items did include 18 pieces of hard plastic, 2 bottle tops and 2 pieces of polystyrene. Our most interesting finds were a pair of sunglasses (minus the arms) and a section of metal boat propellor.

Thanks to John at Whitsunday Paradise Explorer for getting us to site. These surveys were conducted on the traditional lands and sea country of the Ngaro People of the Whitsundays. We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians and their Elders past, present and emerging.

This project is supported by Tangaroa Blue through ReefClean; a project funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust.  ReefClean is a project to remove and reduce marine debris impacting the Great Barrier Reef.

Bowen Grays Bay Reef Health Survey

With the GM from SEQ in town, we jumped in at Grays Bay in Bowen to conduct our inaugural Reef Check Australia reef health survey at this site. This site faces north and contains a narrow reef that starts close to the shore line and heads north where it gradually widens and the variety of coral increases.  This site was chosen based on it’s popularity with snorkellers and fishers when strong south easterlies impact Horseshoe Bay and Rose Bay.

This site is not subject to currents and as such tends to have a layer of silt and poor visibility most of the time. Luckily as the reef is shallow, we can survey it on snorkel at low tide. Hard coral was the dominant substrate at 33%, followed by silt at 17%. We also recorded 6% bleached coral on the point intersect substrate survey. During our impact survey we recorded bleaching on 10% of the population in the survey area, along with 14 incidents of coral damage. Target invertebrates were not observed but fish were recorded with snapper and butterflyfish the most dominant.

We returned in February to complete a CoralWatch and Eye on the Reef Rapid survey and noted that the amount of damaged coral appeared to have increased along with bleaching. However the bleaching only affected a few species of coral and we observed completely bleached corals right next to healthy corals. Also of note, the small coral recruits close to shore appeared to be healthy and did not show signs of bleaching.

These surveys 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.


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

Whale with Steve Backshall

Streaming on ABC iview, Steve takes an interesting look at different whale and dolphin species around the globe, how they interact and feed and some of the pressures they face.

Watch on ABC iview

Current Coral Affairs

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

How anglerfish lure their prey!
They use a fishing rod!

Read now in: Australian Geographic

First ever recorded sighting of baby Great White shark

A baby newborn great white shark has been filmed off Southern California.

Read more: Dive Magazine


Get with the Program

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

3 Mar | Clean Up Australia Day Coral Sea Marina Airlie Beach 

Join in the clean up at Airlie Beach from 8.30 to 10.30 head over to  Coral Sea Marina for more info .

3 Mar | Clean Up Australia Day Stradbroke Island

Cleanups and registration points at Point Lookout, Dunwich and Amity Point

Head over to Straddie Brewing Co for more information

4 Apr | Ambassador Training Starts

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

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. 



Copyright © 2023 Reef Check Australia, All rights reserved.
You have received this newsletter because you have given Reef Check Australia your email address. If you would prefer not to receive any further emails, please click the unsubscribe link in your email.

Our mailing address is:

Reef Check Australia

Share Tweet