December 12, 2007

Year in Review: Reef Check Australia

Submitted by Reef Check Australia

Reef Check Australia is wrapping up a busy year!

Great Barrier Reef Project
The 2007 survey season got off to a slow start due to bad weather conditions. The focus of this season was to map each Reef Check site as well as select new sites for monitoring under the support of the Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Volunteers completed 21 surveys and selected and mapped new sites in Cairns, Townsville and Airlie Beach.

Inshore Reef Monitoring
To mark Earth Day, Reef Check Australia coordinated a visit to James Cook University’s Orpheus Island Research Station (JCU-OIRS) to carry out a fishing line clean-up and to test the first stage of a new monitoring protocol that has the support of Project AWARE, JCU-OIRS and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. The volunteer team discovered a large amount of fishing line at both Orpheus Island and neighbouring Pelorus Island and had to make two dives in order to collect it all, highlighting the impact that fishing can have on the reef. The sites were then surveyed for the abundance and size of coral trout, a popular catch with fishermen of the region but also an ecologically important species on the reef. A protocol for snorkelers is under development alongside the one for volunteer divers, which will allow the local recreational fishing community to get involved in local monitoring.

Reef Check South East Queensland
The inaugural Gold Coast Reef Check team completed the first surveys for this year, despite unfavourable weather restricting access to some sites. To date, Palm Beach Reef, the Gold Coast Seaway and Narrow Neck Reef have been completed by the team. The Noosa team is continuing to wait for the weather to complete their first training course.

The survey area covered by the team includes the Sunshine Coast, Moreton Bay and Gold Coast near-shore and artificial reefs. These areas are of particular importance as their reef substrate conditions are largely unknown and the impacts of human activity have not been monitored. It is important to determine the health of these reefs to ensure these valuable resources are maintained and impacts can be identified.

Biosphere at Noosa!
Noosa Shire has been recognized as Queensland’s first Biosphere reserve by UNESCO. Biosphere reserves are established to promote and demonstrate a balanced relationship between humans and their environment. They are places where communities voluntarily work to promote sustainable development. Reef Check Australia has been involved in the nomination process and Reef Check volunteers will monitor the health of Noosa’s 50 acres of coral reef that are directly off the coast encompassing the Laguna Bay area.

Reef Check Australia trained a total of 32 volunteers in Reef Check from Cairns, Townsville and the Gold Coast. In addition they also trained the Northern Territory’s Government Timor-Leste Project Officers Shane Penny and Leo Dutre to be EcoDiver Trainers. Shane and Leo are currently establishing a team of Reef Check-trained community members in Timor-Leste.

Photography Competition
In celebration of Australian Biodiversity Month in September, Reef Check Australia and ProjectAWARE set up the inaugural “What do Australia’s coral reefs mean to you?” photography competition. The competition was designed to showcase the multitude of different ways that we value our reefs with the overall aim of raising public and political awareness of the importance of responding to climate change and other global threats to coral reefs.

In all, more than 120 entries were received and the competition winners were announced at the awards event at the Perc Tucker Gallery on World Animal Day 4th October 2007. For a gallery of winning images, as well as for more information, please visit

EcoDiver conducts substrate survey on Great Barrier Reef (Photo: RC Australia)