Australian Marine Parks

The Unique Deep Habitats of the Coral Sea Marine Park Marine, James Cook University

James Cook University was awarded funding through an Our Marine Parks Round 2 grant to explore and document the deep (>30m) reef habitats of the Coral Sea Marine Park using remotely operated vehicles (ROV) and acoustic tracking.

These deep habitats support diverse benthic and fish assemblages. The coral cover ranged from 8% to 32% in depth 0-100m.

There were four deep ‘bright spots’ (Herald’s Surprise, Bougainville and Lihou Reefs) that had substantially greater coral cover (up to 71%), and more reef fish abundance and biomass than other sites or reefs. These are the first records of such extensive mesophotic coral ecosystems at these reefs and suggests that deep ‘bright spots’ may be common throughout the CSMP.

The extensive and deep lagoon systems contain a range of habitats, including isolated bommies, meadows of Halimeda and other macroalgae, seagrass.

Acoustic tracking data show that sharks make significant movements among reefs within the CSMP, and between the CSMP and adjacent areas.


Our Marine Parks Grants Round 2: Diving into the Deep (PDF)