Status and trends of reef fish and benthic assemblages of the far northern Great Barrier Reef

Michael J Emslie, Mike Cappo, Leanne Currey-Randall, Manuel Gonzalez-Rivero, Kerryn Johns, Michelle Jonker, Kate Osborne, Maya Srinivasan

This report summarises the outcomes of a field-based project conducted in January 2019 to provide for selected locations in the far northern Great Barrier Reef information on: 

  • coral cover, based on standard manta tow surveys, before a forecasted coral bleaching event;
  • baseline coral community composition and juvenile coral density, as an indicator for reef recovery and resilience, using standard transect based fixed site survey methods;
  • baseline information about fish communities, using two complementary standard methods, underwater visual census (UVC) on fixed site surveys and baited remote underwater video stations (BRUVS);
  • information to assist the operationalising of The Reef 2050 Integrated Monitoring and Reporting Program  (RIMReP) design recommendations from exploring the suitability of selected reefs, the logistics to combine a suite of survey methods and the scope for data integration with historical data for selected sites. Broad-scale surveys of 18 reefs and detailed surveys of seven reefs in the far northern region indicate that reef condition was variable. Reefs severely impacted by the mass coral bleaching events in 2015/16 and 2016/17 were still in poor condition, while others had intact coral populations with moderate to high coral cover.

A document prepared for the Great Barrier Reef Foundation