Coral bleaching

Updated: 29 November 2016

Preliminary results from second round surveys conducted October–November 2016

Preliminary coral mortality and recovery results are now in from recent surveys by GBRMPA and partner organisations.

An article in The Conversation provides further information on this assessment of the 2016 bleaching event and includes a map summarising the results.

The article contains information from two rounds of Reef-wide reef health and impact surveys completed by the GBRMPA and QPWS and further surveys by science partners.

All information is being used to build a comprehensive picture of reef health and condition, and bleaching impacts.

The article’s simplified map shows impacts remain highly variable along the 2300 km long Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The “North” was worst affected by severe bleaching and subsequent loss of corals.

The “Far North (offshore)” includes outer-shelf reefs in the northernmost part of the Marine Park, and escaped the most severe bleaching and mortality, compared to elsewhere in the north.

The “Central” areas of the Marine Park had variable but low to medium loss of corals on average. The “South” had little or no loss of corals.

The surveys also show there are still many reefs throughout the Marine Park with abundant living coral, particularly in popular tourism locations in the central and southern regions, such as the Whitsundays and Cairns.

A supplementary report is now available containing preliminary findings from GBRMPA’s recent surveys.

Detailed findings from these latest surveys will be available in early 2017.

Results from surveys conducted March–June 2016

The first phase of our surveys assessed the extent and severity of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.

An interim report on our survey results has been compiled.

Our preliminary findings — collated before the last surveys conducted at Cape Grenville — show 22 per cent of coral on the Reef died due to the worst mass bleaching event on record.

Eighty-five per cent of this mortality occurred in the 600 kilometre stretch between the tip of Cape York and just north of Lizard Island.

Overall, the area south of Cairns escaped significant mortality.

Far Northern Management Area

From the tip of Cape York to just north of Lizard Island, coral mortality on reefs ranged from very high (50 per cent or more) to low levels (between 0.1 and 9.9 per cent).

Based on initial results of in-water surveys, the average coral loss was 50 per cent in this area.

Cairns–Cooktown Management Area

Between Lizard Island and Tully, coral mortality on reefs ranged from high (between 30 and 49.9 per cent) to low levels (between 0.1 and 9.9 per cent).

Based on initial results of in-water surveys, the average coral loss was 16 per cent in this area. (Note: Surveys around Lizard Island were conducted in March. Later reports indicated mortality levels were likely to be higher in this management area.)

Townsville–Whitsunday Management Area

Between Tully and the Whitsundays, coral mortality on reefs ranged from medium levels (between 10 and 29.9 per cent) to no mortality.

Based on initial results of in-water surveys, the average coral loss was 3 per cent in this area.

Mackay–Capricorn Management Area

South of Mackay, no bleaching-induced mortality was detected.

Frequently asked questions

Find answers to your questions about bleaching on the Reef.

Read more on Frequently asked questions

Current conditions on the Reef

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

Read more on Current conditions on the Reef

Record-breaking sea surface temperatures

This year’s mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef was triggered by record-breaking sea surface temperatures.

Read more on Record-breaking sea surface temperatures

Coral bleaching resources

Coral bleaching resources: Image gallery, bleaching infographic, informative video and map of observed bleaching.

Read more on Coral bleaching resources

Responsible reef practices – Spearfishing

Fishers and spearfishers should consider leaving plant-eating fish to help control seaweed and enable coral larvae to settle and create new colonies.

Read more on Responsible reef practices – Spearfishing

Student and teacher resources

Educational materials, including teaching units and a poster series, for primary and secondary school students.

Read more on Student and teacher resources

Coral bleaching fact sheet

Find out how and why coral bleaching occurs.

Read more on Coral bleaching fact sheet

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

Report your sightings

Download the free Eye on the Reef smart phone app from iTunes/Google play app store or you can use the desktop app to report your Reef sightings.

Read more on Report your sightings

Coral Bleaching Response Plan

The Coral Bleaching Response Plan was developed to meet the challenge of responding to coral bleaching events.

Read more on Coral Bleaching Response Plan

Sea surface temperatures

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology provides information on sea surface temperatures for monitoring coral bleaching.

Read more on Sea surface temperatures


ReefTemp Next Generation is a set of high resolution mapping products that provide information on coral bleaching risk for the Great Barrier Reef region.

Read more on ReefTemp