Tag Archives: John Brewer Reef

Café Latte Coral & The Bump Heads

From Jennifer Marohasy

December 8, 2023 By jennifer 

I was nervous about taking Sky News Australia presenter and the Editor of The Spectator Australia, Rowan Dean, to John Brewer Reef. Would we really be able to find the famous coral – the badly bleached coral that had featured in The Guardian as emblematic of mass death from global warming.

I wondered and I worried. Eighteen months on. If that coral hadn’t died from global warming, might it have been eaten by a Bump Head – a type of coralliferous parrot fish in the family Scaridae.

Bump Head parrot fish near Saxon Reef off-Cairns as photographed by my friend Tobi.

I don’t worry about all the corals. But sometimes I worry about specific corals.

There are a lot of corals to potentially worry about.

Australian governments – especially recent Coalition governments – keep giving so much money to activist scientists who claim they can save the Great Barrier Reef?

It is still one of the seven wonders of the world. It is still visible from outer space. Visible from outer space because this coral-dominated ecosystem is so vast because there is so much coral.

Yet, our government gives hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of hard-earned taxpayer dollars for plantings of just a few corals here and there. Not even an acre of corals, sometimes it is just a few metres of corals.

I have visited a couple of these plantings.

Everyone is usually disappointed.

The few sprigs of corals that they plant usually grow. But then these same few small sprigs are sometimes gobbled up – by the large fishes.

Did you know that a single Bump Head consumes upward of 5 tonnes of live coral in one year.

These coralliferous fish hang around in groups of about 30. That’s 150 tonnes of live coral gobbled in a year!

These fishes have bellies full of coral – including taxpayer funded plantings.

A shoal of Bump Head about to set-off for the day. Photographed by Tobi.

I’ve jumped off the back of a boat, at a place called Bougainville Reef, and descended down 12 metres to see these Bump Heads; like a herd of buffalo across an open plain: kicking up the dust – except it is sand. And eating the grass – except it is coral.

I sometimes worry that these fishes will descent on John Brewer Reef and eat-up that one famous coral that featured in The Guardian, that was back in March last year, in March 2022.

I remember Scott Hargreaves, now Executive Director at the Institute of Public Affairs, being apprehensive about approving for me to visit. Did I really wanted to take the best underwater photographer, Stuart Ireland, to a coral reef that was making headlines around the world as the epicentre of a sixth mass coral bleaching?

I was back at that reef just two months or so ago, with Rowan Dean. I did want to show him that specific coral, as well as all the fishes at this reef that had made media headlines for all the wrong reasons.

A full 18 months after the first claims this reef would take a decade to recover from mass bleaching, we set off to find that coral.

Skipper Paul Crocombe got us to John Brewer Reef. You will see in the film launched at YouTube just today whether Rowan is brave enough to jump in, on snorkel, and find that coral. The film is called ‘Café Latte Coral’ and I’m hoping you will share it with your friends.

Is Rowan Dean going to find that coral dead, or recovered – or eaten by a Bump Head!

‘Café Latte Coral – it’s supposed to be dead!’ is an IPA production, starring Rowan Dean, produced by me (Jennifer Marohasy), filmed and edited by the best underwater cameraman who also happens to be a marine biologist, the one and only Stuart Ireland. A big thanks to Paul Crocombe who heads Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive for getting us out to John Brewer Reef.

Rowan Dean at John Brewer Reef, the first celebrity I have ever convinced to visit the Great Barrier Reef. Usually they just like complaining about it.


The feature image shows Rowan with Paul Crocombe being filmed by Stuart Ireland with Leonard Lim assisting. We set off from the Breakwater Marina, Townsville, with Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive. If you would like to see The Great Barrier Reef, and in particular visit a reef that has been described as mass death, then book a trip with Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive to John Brewer Reef.

If you only have two minutes, you can watch a short version of Café Latte Coral, click here.

If you would like to see more Bump Heads, including at Bougainville Reef, they feature in one of my very first little productions, home-made with a slow and teasing voice over, click here.

A more regular type of parrot fish, photographed by my daughter last year at the Great Barrier Reef. There are so many of this type of parrot fish at John Brewer Reef.

How Brown the Corals – That were Pink Last Year

The colours on the Coral Health Chart are based on the actual colours of bleached and healthy corals. Each colour square corresponds to the concentration of symbiotic algae living in the coral tissue, which is directly linked to coral health.

From Jennifer Marohasy

October 12, 2023 By jennifer

I was back at John Brewer Reef last week and many of the corals are now dark brown. John Brewer reef has lost its pink, for the moment.

The corals in this section of John Brewer Reef are now very brown, or green, because they are replete with zooxanthellae.

There is a Coral Watch program that was developed at Heron Island by the University of Queensland. The ‘Coral Watch Coral Health Chart’ quantifies the health of a coral according to the intensity of its colour that is considered a proxy for the concentration of zooxanthellae. A report on the status of corals at Heron Island indicates that the corals tend to score between 3 and 4, which is considered healthy.

Dive Master Paul Crocombie holds a Coral Health Chart against a branching Acropora at John Brewer Reef last Tuesday, 3rd October 2023.

According to The Coral Watch website, to score a reef:
1. Choose a random coral and select the lightest area.
[Don’t include the growing tip that is usually white.]
2. Rotate the chart to find the closest colour match.

Photographed at John Brewer Reef last Tuesday by Leonard Lim, colour chart held by Paul Crocombe.

3. Record the colour code on a data slate.
4. Select the darkest area of the coral and record the matching colour code.
5. Record the coral type.
6. Continue your survey with other corals. Record at least 20 corals.
7. Submit your data online at http://www.coralwatch.org

Ideally this is done with the chart beside the coral at the reef. But, given the extraordinary quality of the underwater photographs taken by Leonard Lim last Tuesday, and that some include the colour chart held by Paul Crocombe, a Dive Master, Skipper and Owner of Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive, I am attempting some interpretation here, so we might be able to quantify how brown the corals were last week for that patch of reef.

All four colours of the symbiotic algae/zooxanthellae in the Coral Watch Coral Health Chart are shown in this photograph. I calculate the average colour to be 3.7, I would have guessed that it was even higher.
Photograph taken at John Brewer Reef on Tuesday 3rd October 2023 by Leonard Lim.
I can’t bring myself to write on this photograph, it is so beautiful. Another from John Brewer Reef on 3rd October 2023.

This section of reef, towards the north east, has particularly healthy corals and exceptional coral cover. There are some sections of John Brewer reef that are all coral rubble. Coral cover and coral colour varies with the particular habitat. Different habitats include reef crest, reef front and back lagoon.

I first visited John Brewer reef on 10th April last year, with photographer Leonard Lim and cinematographer Stuart Ireland, specifically to photograph and film the bleaching. At the time this reef, John Brewer Reef, was reportedly the centre of a sixth mass coral bleaching – and I wanted it all recorded, for that moment in time.

We did find some corals that had bleached white, but mostly I was surprised at how pink the reef was back then. Leonard took some exquisite photographs and Stuart filmed sections of coral that can be viewed in part 1 of a documentary entitled ‘Bleached Colourful’.

The same section of reef, but quite a different colour in April 2022.

Back in April 2022, many of the corals had ‘kicked out’ their symbiotic algae and so it was possible to see more of their natural pink colour. The pink is from a florescent protein that can ‘upregulated’ when corals are stressed.

It is somewhat counter intuitive that the more symbiotic algae, also known as zooxanthellae, the healthier a coral and the less colourful!

According to the Coral Watch Website:

“The Coral Health Charts are based on the actual colours of bleached and healthy corals. Each colour square corresponds to a concentration of symbionts contained in the coral tissue. The concentration of symbionts is directly linked to the health of the coral. All you have to do is match the colour of the coral with one of the colours on the chart. You then record the lightest and darkest colour codes, along with coral type, on a waterproof data slate.

The hues on the chart represent the most common colours of corals, and help our eyes to make an accurate match. The brightness of the colours ranging from 1 to 6 are the same on every side of the chart, so you can mix and match sides.

How beautiful and brown is this coral, photographed at John Brewer Reef last Tuesday.
Another Leonard Lim photograph from last Tuesday.
What a special coral reef: John Brewer Reef with Paul Crocombe, photographed by Leonard Lim on 3rd October 2023.
Every photograph shows something different.


Stuart, Leonard and Jen at Heron Island in November 2021; I forgot to get a selfie during the recent trip to John Brewer.

Finding that Same Coral!

From Jennifer Marohasy

October 2, 2023 By jennifer

I was back at John Brewer Reef yesterday looking for the same coral that was reported as badly bleached in March 2022. Do you think I could find it?

Some journalists have a tendency to extrapolate from the specific to the general. For example, Graham Readfearn, writing in The Guardian on March 22, 2022, extrapolated from the condition of one coral at one reef to the entire Great Barrier Reef. Quoting marine biologist Adam Smith he wrote 18 months ago:

We’ve definitely just seen corals that are stressed and white… This is one of the healthiest reefs off Townsville and one of the best reefs on the whole Great Barrier Reef. So for these corals to be stressed and damaged… well, it’s likely it’s the same at other reefs…

The online clickbait was a photograph of Smith looking at a branching Acropora with some bleaching, growing from the centre of a plate Acropora that showed no bleaching at all.

Just a few days later the situation was reported as even more dire with Readfearn this time quoting government scientists:

“The Great Barrier Reef has been hit with a sixth mass coral bleaching event, the marine park’s authority has confirmed, with aerial surveys showing almost no reefs across a 1,200km stretch escaping the heat.

The Guardian understands a United Nations mission currently under way to check the health and management of the reef will be briefed on the initial findings of the surveys as early as Friday in Townsville …

Government scientists said the confirmation showed the urgency of cutting greenhouse gas emissions that were driving the repeated mass bleachings. [end quote]

The story went around the world, accompanied mostly by stock images of bleached coral or aerial footage from so high in the sky it was impossible to see individual corals. There was a map to make it even more official.

This map was available on the AIMS and GBRMPA through 2022 but has since been removed.

The government scientists had spoken and almost everyone believed them – that this represented a sixth mass coral bleaching, and the Great Barrier Reef was ruin.

After the bleaching in 2016, leading marine biologists claimed 65 percent of the world’s coral reefs had been destroyed. Yet I’ve been unable to find even one reef that hasn’t recovered.

In short, it is my experience that leading marine biologists and government scientists just make stuff up. In my opinion many of them should be in jail for fraud.

Anyway, I organised a trip to John Brewer reef. I was there just a few weeks after the headlines in The Guardian, on April 10, 2022, with underwater macro photographer, Leonard Lim, and on April 12, 2022, with underwater cinematographer Stuart Ireland who filmed transects. We have the beginnings of a documentary that you can watch here.

On those two visits and on every visit since, I have gone looking for that same coral that featured in The Guardian; that was shown as evidence that,

One of the Great Barrier Reef’s healthiest coral reefs [John Brewer Reef] has succumbed to bleaching.”

My daughter and that same coral, at John Brewer reef in July 2022.

I photographed that same coral in July, with my daughter holding a colour chart in front of it. You can see with reference to the university colour chart that the corals that were bleached in March were a good beige colour by July corresponding to a healthy E4 on the colour chart. The University of Queensland Coral Watch chart explains, “Avoid measuring growing tips of branching and plate corals since they are naturally white.” .. below the white tip they are more usually shades of beige.

Back in July 2022, I did not extrapolate from the condition of the corals at John Brewer Reef to any other reef. I was content to just report my findings for this reef, and particularly this one coral for that moment in time.

The article that I posted explained:

Just as a team from the United Nations were flying into Australia at the behest of James Cook University Professor Terry Hughes – seeking to have the Great Barrier Reef’s world heritage status downgraded – Adjunct Associate Professor Adam Smith was posing for photographs at John Brewer Reef for The Guardian newspaper. At that time, back on 20 March (2022), the mild bleaching and fluorescing at John Brewer reef was being described by Professor Smith as part of a fourth mass bleaching event and in an article for The Conversation, Professor Smith suggested it could take the corals 12 years to recover.

My daughter and I were back at John Brewer reef on Sunday 10th July, the coral that was featured in The Guardian on 22 March as severely bleached is now a healthy beige. It appears to have made a full recovery in less than three months.

Most of the corals at the reef crest at John Brewer are now various shades of beige to chocolate brown, and so the reef is looking exceptionally healthy.

That was the extent of what I wrote.

There was more information in the captions accompanying the ten photographs, but again this information was limited to John Brewer Reef. The blog post was republished by the Institute of Public Affairs.

Facebook subsequently attached a ‘warning’, indicating that my article had been ‘Fact Checked’ and found to be ‘misleading’.

This is a serious accusation.

Only because Scott Hargreaves, Executive Director at the IPA, was prepared to check the detail of the RMIT University FactLab allegation, my article was not simply removed from the IPA website. Scott saw through the hypocrisy. He encouraged me to submit an appeal, which I did on August 2, 2022. That appeal was dismissed on August 5 with reference to an unrelated blog post as evidence I inappropriately extrapolate from the specific to the general this time with reference to the speed of recovery from the bleaching.

In April 2022, when John Brewer reef was reported as bleached white, it was actually unusually pink. This is the colour of the florescent proteins in many of the plate corals at John Brewer Reef.

Many of the large brown plate corals had kicked out their symbiotic algae and so the natural pink pigmentation in the corals at this reef could be seen. The pink colour is from florescent proteins in the coral’s polps that is often masked by the zooxanthellae, which are the corals symbiotic algae more usually a brown or green colour. There were some corals at John Brewer Reef in April 2022 that had bleached white, but relatively few, perhaps 10 percent. More had bleached pink, and some had not bleached at all.

I went looking for the exact same coral that The Guardian had featured as a symbol of catastrophe in April 2022, and then again when I visited with my daughter in July 2022, and I have looked for it every visit since.

I was at John Brewer Reef on October 20, 2022, and again yesterday on October 1, 2023. I found that same coral, again. It has grown some, and it is looking so healthy.

That same coral. I found it just yesterday and photographed it, again.

Everyday we are confronted with misinformation from government scientists paid by Australian taxpayers. More concerned about job security than the truth, they claim the reef is sick, when the reef is healthy.

And so, children around the world have been led to believe that the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven wonders of the world, is dying. When it is not.

There are children who lie awake at night fretting, when they could be told the story of the branching Acropora coral at John Brewer Reef that bleached a little in March 2022, but was all recovered by July that same year. That it went a bit white, after stressing unnecessarily, and kicking out some of its zooxanthellae.

They could be assured that it is still there. That it has grown bigger.

It is still there. When I looked really carefully at it, which I did yesterday with a magnifying glass and a flash light, I could see it even has florescent tips.

The same coral colony that was featured in The Guardian in March 2022 as dying, photographed just yesterday with a flashlight and zoom lens. Up close you can see the coral is healthy and with a florescent white tip. The brown plate coral below it has florescent blue tips. Can you see them?

I went out to the reef yesterday on one of the regular charters with Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive. It was just me, the crew, and a bunch of regular tourists. Later this week I am returning with some celebrities including Peter Ridd.

From the water, looking back to the boat … with so many tourists enjoying the day in the Sun at John Brewer Reef. So much thanks to Nick and the rest of the crew from Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive.

Invitation to Visit Mass Coral Bleaching, and see the Fishes

From jennifermarohasy.com 

By jennifer 

I don’t think he has ever been there – not once. But he has an opinion about the Great Barrier Reef. Last time I looked more than 111K of his followers (after just a few hours of it being being posted) were regurgitating the nonsense message that, of course, the Great Barrier Reef is stuffed, and, of course, Peter Ridd is a stooge of the sugar cane farmers — and also big tobacco. There are hundreds of congratulatory comments, following this short YouTube, confirming, what I already knew, that most of us here in Australia have become useful idiots. In political jargon, a useful idiot is a term used to reference a person perceived as propagandising for a cause—particularly a bad cause.

Too many Australians, whether young or old, voting Labor, Greens, Liberal or Teal, are mostly abrogating their capacity for reason in favour of being fashionable. It doesn’t have to be this way. It could be different, especially if the Jordan Shanks amongst us took a little bit of time to check their facts first. Nobody much does that anymore.

I sent Jordan Shanks the following short note by email yesterday.

Dear Friendly Jordie,

I’ve just watched your episode about the Riddler and the Reef. I was hoping to see you in the water with some corals.

[I should have written with some sharks.]

What about you come see, with me? We could visit the epicentre of the most recent mass coral bleaching, John Brewer Reef. We could go snorkelling together, over the reef crest. You could see for yourself, the state it is in.

It was reported by Graham Readfearn in The Guardian as the worst of the worst bleached, and then there were the official aerial surveys that also reported on the bleaching. Last year, there was even the United Nation’s UNESCO people who visited – but not John Brewer Reef. They said it was all dead and dying.

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.

But guess what: the assessment team never actually visited any of the reefs that were reported as bleached/dead and dying. The experts relied for their stories about the bleaching from the flybys that score the state of the corals out an aeroplane window from an altitude of 150 metres.

I’ve tried that. You can’t see much. To know the state of the corals you need to get in and under-the-water. Come see, with me.

I’ve been out to John Brewer a few times and under-the-water, and even made a short under-water documentary film showing the corals up close.

You can watch the film here, https://vimeo.com/775205373

But, of course, it is never the same as seeing with your own eyes.

The corals at John Brewer Reef as filmed, underwater and from a drone at 5, 10,20,40 and 120 metres altitude in early April 2022 – when this reef was being reported as the epicentre of the sixth mass coral bleaching. Contrary to the media headlines, there was good coral cover and the coral was colourful and healthy at John Brewer Reef.

Friendly Jordie, if you come see with me, I can also show you the remains of the corals that have been wilfully destroyed – by the fishes. The hungry fishes that eat all the best corals.

You probably didn’t know that one Humphead parrot fish will eat about six tonnes of coral in a year. Out at John Brewer reef they prefer the corals that have been newly replanted with all the government monies. So, those fishes, they are costing the Australian taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars each year, eating the corals that you and I have paid to have replanted. There is another and bigger story in all of that, for sure.

You mentioned the old corals, the 500-year-old corals, in your Riddler Ridd episode.

It was during the lockdowns in November 2020 that my dear friend, the late Rob McCulloch – phoned me, crying into his beer. He was devastated as he had a charter to pay that he had secured for Marlin fishermen and for ET (Andrew Ettiingshause) who has that TV show. But ET couldn’t get across the border into Queensland because of the lockdowns.

I suggested instead, that Rob take me out for a week looking for Porites – those 500 year old corals that are reported to all be dead because the reef is stuffed. You know the story, the popular narrative.

To be clear, the Porites are the massive, ancient bolder corals, some as big as minibuses, that have growth rings like tree rings faithfully recording the climate history of the oceans.

Well they used to. As the story goes.

I wanted to go all the way out to Myrmidon Reef, because that is where the scientists used to go on really big ships to core the really, really old Porites.

We went for a week. Dennis, Wizzy, Shaun, Stuart, me and the Skipper – Rob. [You can see us here, on the back of the Marlin fishing boat, Kiama.]

I am grateful for that experience. The adventure was funded by the B.Macfie Family Foundation through the Institute of Public Affairs after I put a phone call through to John Roskam. He took a risk, and believed in me when I said this was the opportunity of a lifetime.

I made a film about that adventure, and it even includes Riddles Ridd — as you call him.

You can watch ‘Finding Porites’ here: https://vimeo.com/766755037

We found a whole garden of Porites, under-the-water. It was the white-tipped reef shark that showed us the way. In the end.

You should come visit us here in Queensland, at the Great Barrier Reef and see some corals and the coral munching fishes and I’ve been trying for some years now to get the experts at the Australian Institute of Marine Science to sit down in front of a camera and answer some questions about the flybys and the bleaching. I have been wanting to ask them how they reconcile the extraordinary beauty and resilience of John Brewer Reef with their nonsense maps — devoid of evidence or even photographs. How they reconcile their claims of mass coral bleaching with all the colourful fishes and corals that I can see under-the-water.

Maybe, if you, Jordan Shanks, come, they will come, we can all go. Together. Even with Riddles Ridd. To John Brewer Reef, the epicentre of the most recent much acclaimed sixth mass coral bleaching.

We could maybe flyby and then, the next day, go under-the-water, or at least snorkel over the reef crest.

Cheers, Friendly Jennie

Drs Jennifer Marohasy (aka Friendly Jennie) with Peter Ridd (aka The Riddler) having walked across a mudflat just to the south of the town of Bowen. The other side of that mudflat you will find beautiful corals, on a low tide you don’t need to even get into the water. Come see.

The feature image is by Toby, and shows a school of Humphead parrot fish. These are coraliferous fish; with each Humphead eating about 6 tonnes of coral each year — a school of them (typically they hang around in groups of 30) eat about as much coral as all the coral that is replanted at great expense each year to Australian taxpayers.