Australian Marine Parks

Tuesday 4 December 2018

The most extensive reef survey of the Coral Sea Marine Park ever undertaken will continue this week as scientists from ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University (Coral CoE) and Parks Australia staff set sail from Gladstone, Queensland.

The voyage will improve our understanding of coral reef health and fish communities as well as providing an opportunity to discover new marine species and measure levels of ocean pollution.

Director of National Parks Dr James Findlay said the project would monitor 20 large reef ecosystems in the Coral Sea Marine Park annually over the next three years, with this voyage heading out to the most remote and isolated reefs in the Coral Sea.

“Parks Australia is proud to be conducting this major voyage into Australia’s largest marine park,” said Dr Findlay. “This expedition will focus on the southern-most reefs, including the remote Mellish Reef which lies more than 800 kilometres off the Australian mainland.

“With a management plan coming into effect for the Coral Sea for the first time in July this year, it is very important that we monitor the health of these isolated coral reef ecosystems and increase our understanding of these amazing places. The voyage will also be assessing micro-plastics in the Coral Sea Marine Park and removing marine debris from the islets and cays.”

Voyage leader, Coral CoE’s Professor Morgan Pratchett, said this voyage would increase our understanding about how reefs are connected, the impact of coral bleaching, and reef recovery.

“Our last voyage showed that some reefs have been affected by bleaching, but we saw some signs of recovery. If no further bleaching occurs, these reefs will continue to recover and may play an important role in the broader recovery of our tropical reef systems,” said Professor Morgan Pratchett.

This is the third voyage in the first year of a three-year project to survey reefs in the Coral Sea Marine Park and follows an October voyage to the Coral Sea’s northern reefs where scientists found coral species never before recorded in Australian waters.

The voyage leaves from Gladstone O’Connell Wharf at 2 am on 4 December 2018 and disembarks at Townsville on 19 December (mid-morning).

The Coral Sea Marine Park has significant populations of internationally threatened species, as well as species found nowhere else in the world. Visit the Coral Sea page to learn more about this fascinating ecosystem.