Leonard Lim’s Exquisite Photography of John Brewer Reef

Originally posted at Jennifer Marohasy’s Blog

Jennifer Marohasy,

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) have been tasked with reporting on the state of the corals and coral cover.  They surveyed John Brewer Reef in March, made no mention of any coral bleaching in their report, and stated coral cover to be just 21.8%.  There are no photographs.

AIMS have large ships to survey the corals but they don’t employ professional underwater photographers who might show us the true state of the corals including at the reef crest where coral cover is often more than 80%.

Underwater photographer Leonard Lim visited this same coral reef a month later and his extraordinary underwater photographs show a coral wonderland with more than 100% coral cover across much of the reef crest that extends for nearly 5 kms.   At the reef crest a great diversity of different corals compete for light – often growing one over another.  It would be absurd to suggest there was only 21.8% coral cover here.

Photographs by Leonard Lim taken on 10th April 2022 show more than 100% coral cover at the reef crest.

AIMS misleadingly report that coral cover at John Brewer is just 21.8% by surveying only the perimeter of this reef.  There methodology is absurd, and it avoids those habitats with most coral cover.

Jennifer Marohasy swimming from the reef crest down to the sandy bottom where AIMS undertake their surveys to measure coral cover. Photographed on 10th April 2022 at John Brewer Reef by Leonard Lim.
Cinematographer Stuart Ireland filming below the reef crest at John Brewer Reef on 12th April 2022. Photograph by Leonard Lim.

Anyone serious about accurately reporting coral cover at John Brewer reef would swim around the perimeter and also over the top where most of the coral is – this is what photographer Leonard Lim did.

Each of Leonard Lim’s photographs are a work of art, and also an accurate depiction of this reef for that moment in time.   From Leonard Lim’s photograph we can see how coral cover varies with the different reef habitats as does the form of the different coral species.  They are flat topped across the reef crest where sea level is such a limit to growth.  Around the perimeter the corals are sparser and taller.

There is such diversity and such beauty at this reef.  Yet the New York Times is reporting a sixth massive coral bleaching event and The Guardian is explaining that John Brewer Reef is at the centre of it all.  These sources of news for millions of people are taking their lead from taxpayer funded activists at leading Australian research institutions including the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) that purports to accurately show coral cover by reporting it to one decimal place (21.8%) while it is only in the small print that it is explained they only survey the perimeter of coral reefs.

Then of course there is Terry Hughes from James Cook University.  He is straight forward about his reasons for lamenting the beauty of this wonderland.    He was on national radio last year saying that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Area deserved to be downgraded by the United Nations because he didn’t like Australia’s climate change policies.

Journalist Fran Kelly made the very reasonable comment that a listing should have something to do with actual impacts.

‘…if we look at it more broadly though, Terry, I mean, if climate change impacts are used as a justification for an endangered listing, then every reef must be, therefore, listed in danger because climate change is a problem [all over the world]. Every World Heritage Site that is affected in any way by climate change, must be listed as endangered. Is that the logical extension of this?’

The University Professor gave a very political reply.

‘Not really. There are 29 World Heritage Sites that have coral reefs. Four of them are in Australia. But other countries that are responsible for those World Heritage properties have much better climate policies [not necessarily better reefs] than Australia does. Australia is still refusing to sign up to a net zero target by 2050, which makes it a complete outlier. And I think this draft decision from UNESCO is pointing the finger at Australia and saying, If you’re serious about saving the Great Barrier Reef, you need to do something about your climate policies.’

Everybody claims to want to save the Great Barrier Reef but very few take the time to visit it.  Professor Hughes flies over it at an altitude of 150 metres and scores the state of the corals out an aeroplane window.   I would argue it is impossible to know their true health from this altitude.  Certainly to see the exquisite beauty captured so perfectly by photographer Leonard Lim it is necessary to get under the water.

It is a travesty and a tragedy that one of the most beautiful and biodiversity ecosystems on this Earth is being falsely reported as dying.

It is evident in Leonard Lim’s photographs and also in the soon to be released long documentary filmed by Stuart Ireland that there are bleached corals at John Brewer Reef and many corals are fluorescing which is a form of bleaching.

The brightest pink and purple corals have expelled their symbiotic algae and increased their levels of natural pigmentation.  This fluorescing is happening late in the season.  These same corals are likely to be replete with new algae, with new zooxanthellae) within a few months.  Corals naturally vary their colour during a single year though it is rare to see such a large number fluorescing.  This was last observed at the Great Barrier Reef in 1998 and 2017.

The fluorescing plate coral in the foreground is bleaching from brown to a more colourful pink. Photographed by Leonard Lim on 10th April 2022 with Jennifer Marohasy top right corner.

Coral bleaching was reported during the very first scientific expedition to the Great Barrier Reef undertaken by the Royal Society in 1929.  There are paintings of coral bleaching observed in 1867 by Eugen von Ransonnet from a diving bell in the Red Sea.

Also, with me on 12th April was underwater cinematographer Stuart Ireland. He is currently editing a long documentary that shows not only the corals we swam over, but also the cheeky clown fish, clouds of blue chromis fish and a friendly white tipped reef shark.  I saw metre-long Maori wrasse, tiny nudibranchs, and speckled sweet lip – all swimming in the crystal-clear warm waters of this most magical reef that is one of thousands that comprise the Great Barrier Reef, which is still one of great wonders of the world.

My visits this week (Sunday 10th and Tuesday 12th April 2022) were arranged through Adrenalin Snorkel & Dive, and I’m already planning a next trip with Paul in October.

All my research is funded by the B. Macfie Family Foundation through the Institute of Public Affairs.

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April 16, 2022 6:01 pm

That word “serious” keeps popping up when evaluating the Climate Crusades.

Tom Halla
April 16, 2022 6:23 pm

Gaslighting on a par with GISS.

Ron Long
April 16, 2022 6:28 pm

Continuing great work from Jennifer. Her comment about needing to get under the water to evaluate coral reefs is priceless, and goes along with a lot of other hands-on, up close and personal approaches that doesn’t register with the computer modelling crowd.

Matt Kiro
Reply to  Ron Long
April 17, 2022 11:33 am

Most of the Climate doomsayers have trouble going outside to look up and notice the weather.
I have noticed anytime they are protesting; they never seem to be hand-cuffed to a telephone poll in a hurricane , or tied down in the middle of the highway in during a heatwave.

April 16, 2022 6:40 pm

Two things are obvious from the chart on the basis that it is at least indicative.

Loss of coral is linked to El Nino events.

The coral recovers.

There are many weather related events that are linked to NINO. Of current note is the linkage of widespread flooding in Australia to extended El Nino occurrences:

Also interesting that the 30 year reference temperature for the NINO34 index was adjusted DOWN the last time it was updated in 2020. This is not something that the Australia BoM wants advertised. A downward trend in tropical ocean temperature is outside their comprehension and should never be mentioned – it is in the same boat as sex before marriage two centuries ago. Certainly not something contemplated in polite company.

Reply to  RickWill
April 16, 2022 7:45 pm

On loss of coral linked to El Niño events and recovery thereafter, see Gilmour et al 2013.-
“Remote coral reefs can be tougher than they look:Western Australia’s Scott Reef has recovered from mass bleaching.”
It notes that by 2012 the ~80% mass bleaching of the remote pristine Scott Reef in the Indian Ocean in 1998 had seen nearly full recovery.
The 1998 El Niño was notoriously strong.
Of course the press release contained the obligatory caveat that with increasing climate change the Reef “may” see a “ ratcheting down effect” making recovery more prolonged and uncertain.
They are incorrigible. Even good news is converted to potential doom.

April 16, 2022 7:06 pm

Jennifer, great, great stuff. Put Hughes to shame, though he shames himself with his “very political reply”. Garbage out.

I would change this sentence to: “I would argue it is impossible to know their true health from HIS ATTITUDE.” (fixed from “this altitude”).

You are doing true scientific research. He is doing politics, or worse.

Thank you.

April 16, 2022 8:04 pm

Wow, beautiful. The only “methodology” by AIMS was to further their bias/narrative that reefs aren’t healthy.

Howard Dewhirst
April 16, 2022 8:28 pm

Could this article be submitted to National Geographic for publication as well as to JCU? Throw down the gauntlet ?

John Hultquist
Reply to  Howard Dewhirst
April 16, 2022 9:25 pm

If the photos were all replaced with ones of dead coral and the text claimed doom for the corals, why yes — then National Geographic might have a go at it. Otherwise, the possibility is slim to none.
Many of us stopped subscribing about 15 years ago, so we have no interest.

oeman 50
Reply to  Howard Dewhirst
April 17, 2022 7:54 am

Yes, and add to the pictures dead coral pictures of starving polar bears. Looks like coral is the polar bear of Australia.

April 16, 2022 8:39 pm

Subverting the truth to serve a political purpose is deeply, deeply corrupt. And guess what, noble cause corruption is still corruption. Societies collapse when they become corrupt.

Folks like Terry Hughes should be in jail. He’s an enemy of civilization.

Reply to  commieBob
April 17, 2022 1:26 am


It isn’t coral reefs that are in danger, (let alone the Planet)!

It is Science itself, thanks to the spread of charlatan, pseudo, post modern, well funded, “science”.

Aynsley Kellow
Reply to  commieBob
April 17, 2022 4:37 pm

If you will forgive a little self-promotion, I covered this in my book: Kellow, A. J. (2007). Science and public policy: the virtuous corruption of virtual environmental science. Edward Elgar Publishing.Jennifer reviewed it


Aynsley Kellow
Reply to  Aynsley Kellow
April 17, 2022 5:30 pm

My apologies for my poor attempt to post a link. This is it if the above doesn’ work:
Jennifer continues to do great work here.
Just to add to her statement about bleaching in 1929, Charles Yonge wrote:

‘By heating for an appropriate time at certain temperatures. It is possible to kill many of the algae without damaging the coral; this occurred naturally on many parts of the reef flat during the low tides in the summer.’ (Yonge, 1929: 696).

Yonge, C. M. (1929). ‘Final report on the Great Barrier Reef Expedition.’ Nature, 124(3131): 694-697.

Old Man Winter
April 16, 2022 9:24 pm

I found several articles that show his photographs of reefs ~ @ 150m (=~500′) ~ taken from a
small Cessna @ ~75mph {(120k/hr) (SWAG) = 110’/s, 35m/s}. It looks like he’s using a standard
35mm camera (SWAG). That’s ~ what he was using to determine the 21.8%! Judge for yourself.
Please correct any of my SWAGs.

NOTE: 150m ~ 1.5 city blocks.




Last edited 1 month ago by Old Man Winter
Old Man Winter
Reply to  Old Man Winter
April 16, 2022 10:05 pm

120k S/B 120km

April 16, 2022 10:18 pm

This extract from the article is revealing;

The University Professor gave a very political reply.
‘Not really. There are 29 World Heritage Sites that have coral reefs. Four of them are in Australia. But other countries that are responsible for those World Heritage properties have much better climate policies [not necessarily better reefs] than Australia does. Australia is still refusing to sign up to a net zero target by 2050, which makes it a complete outlier. And I think this draft decision from UNESCO is pointing the finger at Australia and saying, If you’re serious about saving the Great Barrier Reef, you need to do something about your climate policies.’

It was not good enough for Australia to exceed the UN Kyoto Japan emissions targets, and become on of the few signatory nations that did, and now to be on track to achieve the UN Paris Agreement emissions target targeted for 2030, Australia was asked at COP26 to increase the Paris Agreement target and bring the target date back to 2025. Earlier Australia was refused the right to apply credits for the Kyoto target being exceeded to the Paris Agreement.

The Great Barrier Reef has been and continues to be used by the UN to try and extract more concessions from Australia, by not so subtle threats to deter tourists by claiming that the GBR is in trouble.

Australia also refused to ban coal mining at COP26, I wonder what the consequences for that will be?

Reply to  Dennis
April 16, 2022 11:46 pm

Another words, it’s nothing about the reef but all about the politics.

Eric Vieira
April 17, 2022 12:22 am

A small critique: although due to the overlaps of several corals over one another, there appears to be “over 100% coverage”, I simply wouldn’t use “over 100%” since the “coverage” is not based on the corals, but on the ocean floor surface below them. There’s a risk of not being taken seriously. Otherwise, great work !

Reply to  Eric Vieira
April 17, 2022 1:29 am

If you are planning to tile a roof you need to buy more than 100% by area of tiles to account for the shingling. The corals constitute an overlapping set of plates so a measure of surface overlap needs to incorporated into the analysis.

Geoff Sherrington
April 17, 2022 1:26 am

To continue the excellent information on this post, do read a recent article by Walter Starck, a scientist with many years of Reef experience. Geoff S
The Nature of Things: Trees Shed Leaves, Coral Bleaches – Quadrant Online

Danley Wolfe
April 17, 2022 7:46 am

To Jennifer Marohasy’s Blogpost and Leonard Lim’s exquisite photography, much thanks for this, investigative reporting and beautiful photograph’s. To the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) … how about just YOU cutting out the misinformation you are trying to spread.

April 17, 2022 8:31 am

Hey, mods, can we get a link to her blog? I thought I had it before, must not have bookmarked it.

Reply to  2hotel9
April 17, 2022 9:07 am

On mobile? Scroll one or two swipes down from the bottom of the thread and there is the heading “Bookmarks” under which is an alphabetical listing of other climate related sites. Hers is at D for Dr Jennifer Marohasy.


Reply to  2hotel9
April 17, 2022 9:25 am
Reply to  2hotel9
April 17, 2022 3:35 pm

Thanks guys! I went there from her post a few days ago and then dropped it. This android laptop thingie is odd to use.

Andy Pattullo
April 17, 2022 10:05 am

Not even a glass half full-half empty debate. The glass is overflowing with gorgeous life while the AIMS “researchers” see only a rusted dented paint can full of mud. Pessimism was not supposed to be a paying occupation.

Robert of Texas
April 17, 2022 10:51 am

“with more than 100% coral cover”


Reply to  Robert of Texas
April 17, 2022 5:51 pm

I assume the “more than 100%” is when corals (esp. plate corals) overlap. You can see this in the photos.
What were the sites like 10 or 30 or 60yrs ago to compare?
Should the 100% on graphs be calibrated to a long term average instead of just sea floor coverage (what are we really measuring to represent “normal”)?

April 17, 2022 12:41 pm

Lying and cheating is not okay especially when the liars and cheats are using government funds to willfully misinform us.Every person involved in the above AIMS report should be banned from ever receiving government funds for anything. It’s the least that should happen to them for them knowingly lying and for others to so easily prove they lied.

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