Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system. Covering an area the size of Italy, it is composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi). The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland from the top of Cape York south to Lady Elliot Island (just north of mainland Bundaberg).

A majority of the reef is managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) for multiple uses (fishing, diving, recreational boating, etc). The Reef was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981 and is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

The Great Barrier Reef is under pressure. In 2017 there was a second year of mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. This was unprecedented. However, with a Reef the size of Italy, composed of complex and diverse habitats, even events of this magnitude do not affect the reef equally. That is one of the reasons why you might be reading divergent commentary about Reef health in the media. Some areas are healthy and beautiful, some are showing clear signs of stress with symptoms like coral bleaching and disease; and some areas have been severely impacted by two years of back to back bleaching, cyclones or chronic water quality issues. As a system, the Reef needs our help. 

Reef Check monitors more than 40 sites located in 4 main regions of the coast of Queensland - Cairns/Port Douglas, Townsville, the Whitsunday Islands and the Southern Great Barrier Reef (Heron Island). Citizen science, community engagement and locally based actions to support reef resilience are all identified as important strategies for managing the Great Barrier Reef. We agree! Importantly, these actions close to home must be coupled with quick and notable action on climate change to protect our global icon

We all can, and must, help.

Regional Updates

News Release: In Light of New Report, Reef Check Australia Calls for An Increased Focus On Citizen Science To Save The Great Barrier Reef

September 03, 2019
  Following the release of the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2019 from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and the downgrading of the marine park’s outlook from “poor” to “very poor”, Reef Check Australia is calling on State and Federal Governments, the business sector and individuals to take urgent action to protect our fragile reef systems.    As expected, climate change was named as the most significant threat to the GBR’s long-term outlook and significant global action was deemed critical. As the report in brief outlined, “The Region was at a crossroads in 2009, with an opportunity for its long-term outlook to be improved through timely actions. In 2014, assessments indicated all threats needed to be reduced to prevent the Region’s overall condition worsening from poor. Since then, the outlook for the Region’s ecosystem has become very poor. Climate change is escalating and is the most significant threat to the Region’s long-term outlook.”   “Our volunteer citizen scientists see first hand the pressures of climate change and other human impacts, such as poor water quality, marine debris and unsustainable fishing, and how they are impacting reefs from the North of the Great Barrier Reef all the way to Moreton Bay and the Gold Coast” says Reef Check Australia’s General Manager Joanne Needham “The state of individual reefs are variable but the reality is there is a long term deteriorating trend. Reef Check Australia are calling for increased investment in community programs and citizen science to identify, understand and address the threats to our reef ecosystems.”   Reef Check Australia is the country’s largest volunteer reef science organisation and has been monitoring our reefs for 18 years. “We know that over the last 18 years reef health has deteriorated and continues to do so.  If we don’t act to limit climate change and other impacts, there is no doubt that we will be the last generation to see the Great Barrier Reef as it is today” Reef Check Australia’s Chairman, Richard Coleman explains.  “Reef Check Australia intends to work harder than ever to ensure that won’t be the case. We will continue to put high quality longitudinal data into the hands of policy makers, in the hopes of  sparking actions, our highly trained citizen science volunteers will continue to survey reefs and we’ll use our data to engage with communities and advocate, educate and empower genuine actions to protect our reefs and oceans.”   Reef Check Australia is an innovative environmental charity dedicated to protecting reefs and oceans by empowering people and providing opportunities for individuals, communities and corporations to get involved in reef science and conservation.    Visit reefcheckaustralia.org to find out how to get involved, what changes you can make in your everyday actions to make a difference or set up a monthly donation – any amount no matter how small will help to protect our reefs and oceans.
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Whitsundays Winter Surveys!

August 08, 2019
  Over the weekend of 20 July Reef Check Australia ventured into the waters of the Whitsundays to complete surveys across the region. GBR Coordinator Nathan Cook was accompanied  by Reef Check divers Richard Knight and newly certified RCA diver Ben Corbishley to undertake 5 surveys at offshore Hardy Reef, and nearshore reefs at Luncheon and Butterfly Bay, Hook Island and Blue Pearl Bay, Hayman Island.     The offshore reefs were looking ok with signs of good recovery from the devastating effects of Cyclone Debbie. Inshore, the story was quite different with low coral cover recorded at Luncheon and Blue Pearl Bay. Despite this, we did notice some signs of recovery with new coral recruits evident across all sites.     This project is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. We are also thankful to Cruise Whitsundays and Ocean Rafting for their invaluable logistical support to access the sites. 
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Clean Ups and Surveys at Fitzroy Island

May 13, 2019
  On the 27th and 28th of April Reef Check Australia volunteers, led by our new GBR Project Coordinator Nathan Cook, completed two underwater and two beach clean-ups at Fitzroy Island in the Cairns region as part of the ReefClean project that is funded through the  Australian Government’s Reef Trust which is rolling out across the Great Barrier Reef. The ReefClean project is being delivered by Tangaroa Blue Foundation and a number of partner organisations, including Reef Check Australia.   They completed a beach clean up at Welcome Bay and Nudey Beach and underwater clean ups offshore Welcome Bay, predominantly underneath the boat moorings East of the arrival pier and underneath the boat moorings West of the arrival pier. They found that most of the trash collected on land was predominantly litter from visitors to the island disposing of their rubbish carelessly.   In their data report, which is submitted into the Australian Marine Debris Initiative Database, the team noted that among the most common items found were discarded bottles, fishing gear, clothes and clothes pegs and many hair ties found in the water close to shore.    The team also took the opportunity to undertake surveys on the sites visited. Thanks as ever to our awesome volunteer surveyors for their efforts!
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Welcome to our Newest Team Member!

March 21, 2019
  The Reef Check Australia team is excited to be joined by our new Great Barrier Reef Project Coordinator! Nathan Cook is an applied scientist and specialist in coral reef restoration and capacity building. He has been a passionate advocate for sustainability and stewardship in coral reef ecosystems in South East Asia and Australia for nearly 20 years.   A PADI Master Instructor with over 3500 dives, Nathan became a Reef Check Indo-Pacific Instructor trainer in 2013, pioneering an innovative coral reef conservation program in Thailand. He has led and taught coral reef survey programs, practical coral reef conservation and marine resource management, and designed and implemented a range of experiential learning programs, including curricula focused on integrating the theory of marine management with active reef restoration techniques development and installation of coral nurseries and artificial reefs.  Nathan combines his skills and experience to pursue his passion for supporting developing countries in creating self-sustaining systems of conservation and preservation of their coral reef ecosystems. We are thrilled to have Nathan joining our team and look forward to getting busy on the GBR over the coming months!
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