Reef Check Australia teams make regular visits to established monitoring sites to check up on reef health.

Our protocols are based on the standardised and peer-reviewed Reef Check monitoring methods, with additional regional indicators tailored to the Australia marine region.

For funded priority sites, survey teams will visit the site annually, taking a snapshot of what is happening on that reef to create long-term trend information and help identify changes in reef health. 

A standard survey includes documenting:

  • reef composition (percent cover of what is making up the reef)
  • signs of reef stress (abundance and severity of impacts)
  • abundance of key invertebrates 
  • abundance of indicator fish (as feasible)
  • information about site use and disturbances


Survey protocol

Reef Check surveys are conducted along a transect line marked by a graduated tape measure that is laid along a constant depth and reef habitat. The transect length that is surveyed is 80m, divided into four 20m sections or transect replicates. Each 20m sections is separated by 5m or more to create independent replicates that can be compared within surveys as well as between surveys.

Substrate (Reef Composition)

Four 20m survey sections are completed along a 100m line marked out with tape and a point sample survey of the ground below (classified as either hard coral, soft coral, algae, rock, sponge, and others) is taken every 50cm.

Invertebrate & Impact 

On the same survey transect, surveyors complete a U-shaped search patterns on a 5m wide belt to record the number and size of indicator invertebrates (such as crown-of-thorns starfish, sea cucumbers, anemones and sea urchin species) discovered. Any reef health impacts (i.e. disease, drupella scars, anchor damage or bleaching) are recorded and photographs are taken for our database.


Along the same survey sections, a fish count through a 5m square tunnel is used to record the abundance and size of key indicator species, such as coral trout, butterflyfish, snapper and sweetlips.


Find out more about what and how we monitor in our Methods Manual.