Coral bleaching

Updated: 22 February 2017

We’re currently monitoring sea surface temperature, rainfall and flood plumes throughout the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

It is part of seasonal monitoring that takes places each summer and the information is released through our current conditions report.

Summer is a high-risk period for the Reef. Due to unprecedented heat stress from last summer and a warmer than average winter, corals may be more susceptible to bleaching and disease.

We’re receiving increasing reports of variable levels of bleaching across the Marine Park and we’re closely monitoring the situation.

Along with the tourism industry we're urging Reef visitors and those working in the Marine Park to closely monitor coral condition and encourage reports through our Eye on the Reef app.

Subscribe to our e-newsletter for further updates on Reef health and management.

Coral bleaching in 2016

In 2016 the Great Barrier Reef was affected by the worst coral bleaching on record.

Bleaching was highly variable throughout the 344,000 square kilometre area — many reefs throughout the Marine Park have abundant living coral, particularly in popular tourism locations in the central and southern regions, such as the Whitsundays and Cairns.

In September 2016 we released an interim report with results from surveys conducted between March and June 2016.

In November 2016 we released a supplementary report with preliminary findings from our surveys in October to November 2016.

Detailed findings will be available in early 2017.

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

The article contained information from two rounds of Reef-wide reef health and impact surveys completed in 2016 by the GBRMPA and QPWS and further surveys by science partners.

The article’s simplified map showed impacts from the 2016 bleaching were 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.

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.

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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

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