Current conditions on the Reef

Each summer, we assess the health of reefs in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, as this part of the year poses a greater risk of extreme weather, particularly heat waves, cyclones and flooding.

Stressful conditions can lead to coral disease outbreaks, while poor water quality may make coral more susceptible to bleaching and lead to greater numbers of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish.

We use the best available scientific knowledge contributed by a wide range of research institutions, government agencies, and universities to manage the Great Barrier Reef and ensure it remains healthy for future generations.

It’s important we have accurate, real-time information on Reef conditions. Any visitors to the Reef can report observations of coral bleaching, disease, predation or damage through the Eye on the Reef program.

Everyone — regardless of where they live — can help look after the environment by reducing their carbon footprint, for example by recycling, avoiding excess packaging and plastic bag use, reducing energy use by choosing energy-efficient appliances, and using environmentally friendly cleaning products and fertilisers.

When visiting the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park comply with zoning rules, don’t anchor on coral, use public moorings, reduce debris, keep plant-eating fish on the Reef, report illegal fishing, and supply information on Reef health via our Eye on the Reef app.

Update 2: 12 January 2018

Overview of environmental conditions

The El-Niño Southern Oscillation is currently at weak La Niña levels and predicted to be short-lived, persisting until early autumn 2018.

The Bureau of Meteorology's February to April seasonal outlook indicates the Great Barrier Reef catchment region is likely to receive higher than average rainfall. Air temperatures are likely to be average throughout the majority of the region, with the exception of parts of the coast between Bowen and Bundaberg which are likely to experience higher than average temperatures, and Cape York which is likely to experience lower than average temperatures.

The Bureau’s predictive modelling for the Reef indicates sea surface temperatures are likely to fluctuate around average over the next three months, with the greatest chance of above average temperatures in the Far Northern and Southern management areas.

As of the beginning of January, sea surface temperatures are generally average throughout the Reef, with the exception of the Far Northern management area, and some inshore areas throughout the Marine Park where temperatures are above average. Sea surface temperatures throughout the Reef were average to above average for much of 2017 and heat stress has been accumulating in the system.

The Bureau's tropical cyclone outlook indicates an average cyclone season for the Reef, with up to four cyclones developing in the Coral Sea and at least one making landfall along the Queensland coast.

Our table of observations and forecasts provides more detailed information.

Reef health monitoring is ramped up over this time to keep an eye on the marine environment.

Overview of coral reef health reports

Multiple significant impacts affected the Great Barrier Reef over the two previous years, including severe coral bleaching, outbreaks of coral disease and crown-of-thorns starfish, and a severe tropical cyclone and subsequent flood plumes.

A separate summary of these past reef health impacts is available.

The significant heat stress experienced during summer 2016-17 — along with a warmer than average winter and spring in 2017 — means corals faced continued stress and will potentially be more susceptible to bleaching and disease in early 2018.

Recent reports from the Eye on the Reef network indicate there are currently minor levels of coral bleaching, disease and damage in the Marine Park, with the exception of the more severe legacy impacts from the previous summer.

Severe active outbreaks of the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish continue in the northern and central management areas, as well as in the southern Swains Reefs.

There is also some indication of increasing isolated starfish outbreak activity in the far northern Marine Park.

Our crown-of-thorns starfish control program continued scheduled culling on selected reefs in the Cairns–Cooktown and Townsville–Whitsundays management areas to help protect corals.

Since the control program began in 2012, more than 570,000 starfish have been culled from reefs of high tourism and ecological value in the Marine Park. The control program’s capacity to protect coral will be expanded with a third vessel joining the fleet in 2018.

Want to help us keep an eye on the Great Barrier Reef?

Find out more about how you can get involved in our monitoring programs.

Latest detailed observed forecast and environmental conditions

Detailed information on sea surface temperature, tropical cyclones, rainfall levels and flood plumes to date.

Read more on Latest detailed observed forecast and environmental conditions

Eye on the Reef program

Eye on the Reef is a monitoring program that enables anyone who visits the Reef to contribute to its long-term protection.

Read more on Eye on the Reef program