Coral Snapshot 2022-23, & All the Unanswered Questions

From Jennifer Marohasy’s Blog

Jennifer Marohasy

Full marks to David Mills, writing in the Courier Mail, for asking why the government tends to bury good news reports about the Great Barrier Reef.

There are a few other questions that I would like answered.

Key government ministers, marine scientists, and climate scientists have been unable to acknowledge:

Q1. Overall coral cover has been increasing since at least 2009 (14 years).

Q2. According to official underwater surveys – that are perimeter surveys – coral cover is at a record high.

I know Sky Television legend Rowan Dean has been in trouble with the press watchdog over this good news claim. But it seems pretty straightforward, quoting from the most recent relevant government report:

Widespread recovery has led to the highest coral cover recorded by the Long-Term Monitoring Program in the Northern and Central Great Barrier Reef …

Q3. These perimeter surveys under estimate coral cover, claiming it to be less than 40%, when coral cover is often more than 90% at the crest of the same reef.

Corals around the outside/perimeter of reefs are particularly susceptible to cyclone damage.

The official surveys of coral cover are somewhat misleading because the survey is done of just one habitat type, the reef perimeter. Most of the coral is at the reef crest. The survey of John Brewer reef followed the track shown by the yellow, orange and green lines.

Q4. The number and intensity of cyclones has been decreasing since at least the 1970s. Something the Bureau of Meteorology is unable to acknowledge. Why?

Q5. When will the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) reconcile results from aerial surveys that report severe bleaching (30-60%) with underwater survey results that reported no (0%) bleaching – at the same coral reefs at the same time?

For example, aerial surveys of John Brewer Reef in March 2022 reported 60% bleaching. Coincidentally, at the same time this reef was being surveyed underwater. The results published online in August 2022 found no coral bleaching at this reef (o%).

It is impossible to reconcile 60% bleaching based on the official aerial survey with 0% bleaching based on the official underwater survey for John Brewer Reef, with both surveys undertaken in March 2022.

Results from underwater survey are here:

Results from aerial survey were here:

Since removed.

This map was being promoted through March and April 2022 as showing the Great Barrier Reef suffering from mass coral bleaching with the impression that most of the coral was going to die.

There never were any photographs from the aerial surveys, and the results have since been removed, without explanation.

I visited John Brewer reef in April 2022 after it made worldwide headlines as the centre of mass coral bleaching. I found a coral wonderland, with one of the underwater photographs from that visit featured at the top of this blog post. At the reef crest coral cover exceeded 100%, with corals growing onto of each other. Meanwhile, the official underwater survey stated coral cover to be just 21.8%.

To be clear, John Brewer Reef, that was being reported around the world as stark white, was, in reality, the most beautiful coral reef with over 100% coral cover at the crest, and an abundance of fish and other marine life including a friendly white tipped reef shark.

I detailed the extent of the contradiction in a series of blog posts, including ‘Stonewalling on Contradictory Results – Part 3: John Brewer Reef Fact Check’.

I also made a documentary film, entitled ‘Bleached Colourful – Part 1’ it shows the corals at John Brewer reef in April 2022 from both under-the-water and from an aerial drone survey.

Me/Jennifer Marohasy photographed by a drone hovering at 5 metres.
Me/Jennifer Marohasy photographed by a drone hovering 20 metres above John Brewer Reef.
Me/Jennifer Marohasy photographed by a drone hovering at 40 metres above John Brewer Reef.
Me/Jennifer Marohasy photographed by a drone hovering 120 metres above John Brewer Reef in early April 2022. This is the maximum legal limit for flying a drone in Australia.

The official aerial surveys are by Neal Cantin and/or Terry Hughes looking out an airplane window while flying at an altitude of 150 metres.

The film runs for just on 24 minutes, and explains how the official underwater perimeter surveys are undertaken, which is by Manta tow. It also shows how different the aerial perspective is, and includes a segment with Terry Hughes being interviewed by Fran Kelly explaining the political significance of his work/the aerial surveys.

David Mills, writing in the Courier Mail, is referring to a more recent ‘Snapshot report’ about the Great Barrier Reef that concludes:


While sea temperatures in spring were the hottest on record, summer sea temperatures were at or slightly above average.

Data on sea temperatures are theoretically available from approximately 80 Great Barrier Reef sites, 16 Coral Sea sites, 7 sites in Northwest Western Australia, 8 Queensland regional ports, 13 sites in the Solitary Islands, 4 sites in PNG and 10 sites in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Data are obtained from in-situ data loggers deployed on the reef. Data loggers instantaneously record sea temperatures every 30 minutes and are exchanged and downloaded approximately every 12 months. Except not one of these temperature series are ever shown by the Australian Institute of Marine Science so we can see the actual temperature data as a continuous time series – unadjusted.


Minor bleaching was seen in all three regions (northern, central and southern), however there was no mass coral bleaching.

I was recently diving off Cairns and there was absolutely no bleaching. Ace underwater photographer Stuart Ireland is continually filming above and below the water and he can report that the reef is in magnificent condition. He regularly posts video at


No cyclones entered the Marine Park. Large swells from TC Gabrielle which tracked outside the Reef in February may have caused some damage to some reefs on the outer edge.


Crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks continue on reefs in the southern region, particularly in the Swains reefs.

The Swain Reefs include about 400 individual reefs covering an area of 16,900 square kilometres (4 million acres), that is about 120 nautical miles off shore (about 220 kms).

The Swain Reefs have historically sustained high numbers of these starfish, and regular outbreaks, probably for thousands of years.

Natural predators of crown-of-thorns star fish include the giant Triton snail and Titan Trigger fish. They gobble up the star fish, that are native to the Great Barrier Reef.

Triton snails are particularly efficient at devouring crown-of-thorns starfish never mind the sharp spines, as shown in this video courtesy of the Australian Academy of Sciences.

I have been diving and snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef for more than 50 years, and one of my favourite fish is the Titan Trigger Fish, that I recently photographed lying across a bed of soft corals at Saxon Reef off Cairns.

Can you see the Trigger fish lying across the soft corals? I took that photograph on about 1st April 2023.
The Trigger fish that I swam with at Saxon reef, off Cairns.

I’ve seen these fish, that have large teeth, flip crown-of-thorns starfish onto their backs before eating out their soft underbelly, as shown in this YouTube.

Me getting ready for the first snorkel of the day off the back of the live aboard Reef Encounter, Saxon Reef, off Cairns on April 1, 2023. The water was warm and crystal clear. I did about a dozen snorkels, each more than one hour over three days at about six reefs. I saw lots of fish and coral, no crown-of-thorns or bleaching.

How gorgeous is this turtle, filmed with my TG6 Olympus underwater camera, free diving to about 7 metres.

Just down about 7 metres, straight-off the back of the boat. Filmed with my TG6 Olympus underwater camera. It doesn’t have to be complicated.No Scuba or lights for this photograph, even though it was at depth.

I’m hoping to be on Outsiders with Rowan, Rita and James tomorrow morning talking about all of this.

I’m grateful to David Mills for generating some interest in all of this, and here’s the article he wrote. Can someone please send him a link to this blog post.
Mills-‘False picture’: Little-known fact about the Reef

And just three more pictures, from John Brewer last April. It is unbelievable that this reef was making newspaper headlines around the world as badly bleached at the same time I was seeing with my own eyes all this beauty.

This last underwater photograph was taken by another legend, Leonard Lim. And he is the best Scuba buddy. Photograph taken at John Brewer reef early April 2022.

The most common coral colour, at reefs around the world, is beige.

5 30 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Tom Halla
May 20, 2023 2:12 pm

Deviation from the official story line?

Reply to  Tom Halla
May 23, 2023 11:44 pm

Unfortunately junk science pays just as well in junket trips and grants, if not much better, and can get even better recognition than objective, professionally performed and reported science. Put simply, pal reviewed junk science is ranked on its salacious mob media potential and is far more attuned to the Twitterspehere than to objective, informative, scientifically rigorous reporting of research and quality observations.

The aerial survey’s of the reef would have to be the cheapest of cheap jack methodologies which readily facilitate reporting just about anything as to the interpretation of the ‘data’. In the spirit of Julian Assange, its Collateral Coral Murder (the edited version).

The real problem is the junk media who have no idea of how to truly assess the schlok they are fed via the science communications cadre’s that are now attached to research outfits. If schlok is presented as being the work of xspurts then thats all they need. Pity they don’t give similar credence to people with actual expertise.

Rud Istvan
May 20, 2023 2:30 pm

Nice report, Jenn. Prof Terry Hughes has made a career out of proclaiming GBR climate change disaster. So he ‘sees’ 60% bleaching from the air when your dive photos prove there is none.
Hansen ‘saw’ massive sea level rise acceleration when none exists.
Sterling and Derocher ‘saw’ the demise of polar bears from the demise of Arctic summer ice. This comprised two falsehoods—Arctic summer ice did not disappear as climate models predicted, and polar bears depend mainly on spring ice during the seal whelping season. Nobody ever predicted no Arctic spring ice.
The USNPS ‘saw’ that Glacier National Park would have no glaciers by 2020, yet it still has plenty today
IPCC AR4 ‘saw’ the extinction of the golden toad from Brilliante Ridge in Costa Rica’s national park as proof of climate change, when the cause was the amphibian fungal disease chytridiomycosis brought in by tourists visiting Brilliante Ridge.

The ‘seen’ contrary evidence continues to pile up against the alarmists.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Rud Istvan
May 20, 2023 4:47 pm

BTW, Charles Rotter of WUWT has been capturing some magnificent old sea turtles off the coral reef off Fort Lauderdale, Our reef is thriving after we got sedimentation under control.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
May 20, 2023 5:01 pm

The old ones are easier to capture, but the young ones are better eating.

Or so I’m told . . . 🙂

Reply to  Mr.
May 20, 2023 8:10 pm

That all depends in my backyard-
Court upholds native title abalone right | SBS News
Some maintainers of biodiversity are more equal than others. It’s a green lefty thing.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
May 20, 2023 8:23 pm

But Hughes originally proclaimed the reef “dead” It is only zombie coral.;)

michael hart
May 20, 2023 3:37 pm

How much, I wonder. do the measured values vary by the daily/seasonal tide levels? How is this taken into account?

Jennifer Marohasy
Reply to  michael hart
May 20, 2023 5:17 pm

Every El Niño sea levels drop across the GBR, and on lowest tides, a lot of coral is exposed. this will give you bad bleaching as per 2016. :-(.

Jennifer Marohasy
May 20, 2023 3:43 pm

When the UNESCO team visited the Great Barrier Reef in March 2022 to confirm the need to downgrade its listing, and add it to the list of world heritage sites that are in danger from climate change, they didn’t actually visit a single bleached reef.

The overseas visiting experts were taken to Lady Elliott island in the south and Moore Reef off-Cairns in the North.

These coral reefs were looking magnificent back then, and still are.

The UNESCO team deferred entirely to the aerial surveys to conclude that there is a problem.

I wanted to know from the aerial surveys where I could find a bleached reef, but every time I went to check (e.g. at John Brewer Reef, and also Stanley Reef, off from Townsville), the corals were looking good.

That the fourth estate/the Australian media is not calling UNESCO, AIMS and the rest of the team, out on all of this is more than disappointing.

Reply to  Jennifer Marohasy
May 20, 2023 5:07 pm

Was this the AIMS & UNESCO team, Jennifer?

see no evil etc etc.jpg
Jennifer Marohasy
Reply to  Mr.
May 20, 2023 5:29 pm

I looked at the UNESCO report with agenda and they meet with ‘everyone’, state and federal government representatives, AIMS etc. etc. They were told about the aerial survey results, but they didn’t seem at all interested in ground truthing. They flew all the way down-under but didn’t actually come to see anything. They could have done it all by Zoom. That would have saved on carbon dioxide.

Reply to  Jennifer Marohasy
May 20, 2023 9:03 pm

But then they would miss out on the free all-expenses-paid trip, which is the real reason anyone at the UN does anything.

Reply to  Mr.
May 22, 2023 5:50 am

Left and center monkey are accurate.

The right monkey should be replaced with mickey mann with his mouth open wide.

Silent, climate alarmists or their supporters are anything but silent!

May 20, 2023 3:48 pm

The most common coral colour, at reefs around the world, is beige.

But according to Tezza Hughes –

The reef at first just ghostly
Turned a whiter shade of pale

(h/t Procol Harum)

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Mr.
May 21, 2023 2:17 am

One of sixteen vestal virgins
Who were leaving for the coast

So that’s where they were going

May 20, 2023 3:51 pm

Very nice shots of the reef Jen very colorful

May 20, 2023 5:10 pm

Great stuff.

Suggest you publicly invite Neal Cantin and Terry Hughes, as well as Fran Kelly to an underwater inspection with you, in the interest of “consensus”. Let each specify a reef for the record. Should be interesting, especially if all refuse.

Reply to  BobM
May 20, 2023 5:41 pm

Yes, but don’t let any of them wear wetsuits.

Otherwise Greenpeace will descend on the dive sites clamoring to “save those whales”.

Reply to  Mr.
May 20, 2023 6:07 pm

Without wetsuits they’ll be mistaken for Belugas ! Ningaloo lives !

May 20, 2023 6:02 pm

Well done, Jennifer! They know that they lie, we know that they lie and they know that we know that they lie … and yet they continue to lie.

Rod Evans
Reply to  Streetcred
May 20, 2023 11:28 pm

That is the perfect definition of politicians in one simple sentence.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Streetcred
May 21, 2023 3:10 pm

It is a defining feature of socialism. It leads to mass cynicism, corruption and the collapse of society. In the 20th Century the United States of America was around to put the pieces back together again. It appears we might not be here for the next go-around. Not my problem; I did my bit the first time around.

May 20, 2023 6:29 pm

“ It is impossible to reconcile 60% bleaching based on the official aerial survey with 0% bleaching”

Actually it’s pretty easy to reconcile, just ask yourself which of the 2 figures is likely to bring in the most money.

It’s a business and you need to keep those headlines happening.

Smart Rock
May 20, 2023 7:04 pm

Thanks to Jennifer for another fact-laden and visually stunning post. Good on yer!

May 20, 2023 8:54 pm

Where’s Nick Stokes? I’m sure he will point out the problems with this article, that it is cherry picking data or we are misinterpreting the facts.

This article points out one of the best examples of alarmists posing as scientists making false claims that anyone can prove wrong, for instance by just going out to the reef and seeing with one’s own eyes the beauty (or by just looking at the pictures for those of us landlocked).

Why aren’t the media reporting this?! They normally love big scandals – is it because it works against their own politics? Their favourite parties have been on the bandwagon and exaggerating or just plain lying about the issues for decades and they were never exposed by the corrupt media.

Ben Vorlich
May 21, 2023 2:11 am

“There never were any photographs from the aerial surveys, and the results have since been removed, without explanation.”
The explanation is that the story has done its job, everyone thinks the reef was destroyed by bleachung, so is no longer needed and is vulnerable to exposure as being incorrect (a fabrication).
We’re being exposed to similar hype or this in Britain, even in Britain 25’C isn’t sweltering and 30 is just pretty warm. My guess is that such temperatures will only affect a few locations which are not likely to be north of Watford Gap

May 21, 2023 3:22 am

I think this may be the link to what has been removed from the GBRMPA site:

Tom Abbott
May 21, 2023 4:28 am

Well, it sounds like every Australian government entity that has anything to do with human-caused climate change is being deceptive, and is censoring the truth because the truth does not square with the official government narrative on human-caused climate change and CO2.

That’s Alarmist Climate Science for you: Lies and Deceptions. Because the only evidence they have disputes their claims that humans are causing the climate and coral reefs to change because of increased CO2 output.

Lying pays well, obviously.

Rick Wedel
Reply to  Tom Abbott
May 21, 2023 5:38 am

I think I understand why the green industry promotes the CAGW narrative, as they make a lot of money selling us their green junk. I don’t understand why the left wing governments promote it. What’s in it for them? Is it simply their need to control our primary industries, or a deeper need to impose socialism on everyone? Here in Canada, the Justin Trudeau Liberals are all in on climate change and are wrecking our economy. Where’s the pull cord to stop this insane bus?

Dave Fair
Reply to  Rick Wedel
May 21, 2023 3:13 pm

In the U.S. the pullcord is our 2nd Amendment.

Jennifer Marohasy
May 21, 2023 3:01 pm
May 23, 2023 3:16 am

Peter Ridd vindicated. I hope he is doing well.

%d bloggers like this:
Verified by MonsterInsights