Category Archives: Marine Team

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Congratulations to our raffle winners!

Category : Front Page , Marine Team , Raffle

This year’s Marine Response Team Raffle 2015 has been a successful fundraiser for the team, thanks to all involved! Special thanks to the local businesses that donated prizes. Click here to see our generous sponsors!




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Drain Stencil Project Launch

Category : Marine Team

The Drain Stencil Project was initiated in February 2015 by volunteers of the CAFNEC Marine Response Team. It was officially launched on Friday, 5th of June 2015 at Yorkey’s Knob. Our first drain stencilling event was a beautiful sunny day and it was celebrated by many members from the Cairns region and Yorkeys Knob community. We were fortunate to have a local

artist Imogen from Art of ION  to draw a beautiful chalk and stencil artwork on one of the drain inlets, which we were all very proud of.  At the event there were also an array of different information stalls, and free food was provided to quench everyone’s fierce appetites after a day out stencilling. The day was a great success and was enjoyed by the community, the council and the CAFNEC Marine Response Team. We were even able to show our success with an article in the Cairns Post.

DSC_0669The launch was exciting and a great success. From the launch date until the end of 2015 six stencil sessions were held in other suburbs around Cairns, managing to stencil over 40 drains. The project was able to continue in to 2016, where a suburb-intensive program was initiated, allowing us to focus on one suburb at a time. More stencilling sessions were held, and with the help of schools and communities we were able to stencil over 100 drains.

The Drain Stencil Project from the day of the launch has continued to grow and continues to have avid participants but it would be great to have more of your help, interest and involvement! If you have a drain in your local area that you think would be great for stencilling, and you want to do something positive for your community and the environment registe here and find out some more about how you can become involved.

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Seventy One Percent – marine conservation themed art exhibition

Tags :

Category : Events , Marine Team

A group of James Cook University students is presenting an art exhibition this June on the theme of our positive and negative relationship with the ocean. Titled Seventy One Percent – the percentage of the earth’s surface that is water – the event is a group exhibition comprised of emerging and established artists who share a concern for the environment.

You are invited! – Join the facebook event here.

logoThe event is being hosted through the Cairns Regional Council’s Urban Spaces program, with the space a pop-up gallery at 33 Lake Street. Free to the public, the event will officially open on Saturday, 13th June at 6:30pm. Local emerging musician Micki will provide entertainment throughout the night. The CAFNEC Marine Response Team will be on hand to provide information to the attendees. The exhibition will remain open every day until the 23rd June.

The diverse exhibition will showcase work from dresses made of plastic – a comment on marine pollution – to colour field paintings exploring the colours and vibrancy of the ocean. Projection, assemblage, sculpture, digital prints, and paintings will create an immersive experience that the curators hope will raise awareness of the beauty and fragility of the marine environment, and our role in looking after it.

The organising team behind this project are all studying Creative Industries at James Cook University, and as senior students will soon be joining the creative community of Cairns. They are fundraising for the project and any excess funds will be donated to the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre for the Cairns Drain Stencil Project.

For further information, contact or visit

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World Heritage Day event Cairns – message in a bottle

Join us for a picnic at the Esplanade this Saturday (April 18th) to celebrate World Heritage Day .

Let’s make sure Federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, gets the message that we want our national treasure “the Reef” protected.


Where: Cairns Esplanade Eastern events lawn, (East of the Lagoon) – map link below.

What: Picnic and opportunity to send your ‘message in a bottle’ to Greg Hunt

 When: Sat 18th April, 12-2:00pm


Our aim this World Heritage Day is to send as many ‘messages in a bottle’ to Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt so he knows how precious and fragile the Reef is to all Australians.

Communities around the country will be coming together on World Heritage Day to send their messages to Greg Hunt and stand up for the Reef.

Join us for a sausage, a cold drink, some good conversation, maybe some acoustic music and a chance to send your message on reef protection.

Meet members of the CAFNEC Marine Response Team and other like-minded people for a pleasant picnic with a purpose – see you there :)

Facebook event page – Please hit the ‘I’m going’ button, share the event with your friends and family. Also please consider heading to the Cafnec Marine Response Team facebook page and supporting us with a ‘like’. Thank you.




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Tribute to Paris Chadburn

Category : Front Page , Marine Team

Reef Rally-23


Tribute to and in Loving

Memory of

Paris Chadburn


Paris was one of our youngest and cherished team members. Her contributions to the Marine Response Team will remain here for the years to come. Paris was a young girl who could see the importance of the reef in her future. Standing alongside Bob Irwin at the 2014 Reef Rally in Cairns she helped to inform, inspire and rally the people of Cairns to take action for The Great Barrier Reef.

Unfortunately Paris left us early and we pay tribute to her efforts for marine conservation and continue to draw inspiration and dedication from her loving memory.

Rest in Peace Paris,

You will never be forgotten

We continue to celebrate your passion and inspiration through our work here at the Marine Response Team

DSC_0020Chris Robson-26_2000

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Politicians take note: Great Barrier Reef health matters to voters

Category : Marine Team

MEDIA RELEASE 07/01/2015

Cairns and Far North Environment Centre (CAFNEC) is today drawing attention to a new report presenting evidence for what many of us know – The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) environmental health matters to locals and tourists, especially in the Far North. This report is well timed in the context of the major Cairns Port dredging proposal, other local threats to reef health and a looming State election.

Notably the study concludes that residents in the north region of the GBR catchment value preservation of the environment for future generations even more than their southern counterparts.

The study entitled: ‘The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA): its ‘value’ to residents and tourists, and the effect of world prices on it’* has produced a number of findings confirming the importance of protecting the GBR.

The report’s conclusions include:

Cairns-Harbour-Dredging-Xanthe-Rivett-3529“Multiple lines of evidence suggest that residents of, and visitors to, the Great Barrier Reef Catchment Area feel that environmental non-use values are more important, to their overall quality of life or as a ‘draw-card’ to the region, than recreational or market-based values. As such, developments or changes which degrade those values are likely to be met with some resistance.”

“Changes in the environment have a real impact on people and on the decisions of people, which affects the broader economy.”

CAFNEC Marine Programs Coordinator Josh Coates is available for media interviews and said:

“This study confirms the obvious; the reef is valuable and is valued. All politicians need to be very aware of this during the election campaign. We believe people can and will vote for the reef this election.”

“The results tell us that most locals and tourists alike value overall environment health over economic activities or even recreational uses of the reef environment. People are prepared to pay to see the proper protections put in place to address excess sediment loads, shipping impacts and to protect vulnerable species.”

“The study tells us that businesses relying on the reef put at least 4 billion dollars into the economy each year for people living near the reef. . Even more importantly the value of the ecosystem services the World Heritage Area provides are valued at between 15 and 20 billion dollars per year.”

“It is no surprise that this report confirms that the economy and the environment are linked. Investing in reef protection is investing in our economic future. As Far North residents go to the polls, politicians would do well to remember this as they examine policies for dredging projects, undertake reef conservation planning and consider funding for reef management and science.”


More detail is available via a web article at:

*Stoeckl, N., Farr, M., Jarvis, D., Larson, S., Esparon, M., Sakata, H., Chaiechi, T., Lui, H., Brodie, J., Lewis, S., Mustika, P., Adams, V., Chacon, A., Bos, M., Pressey, B., Kubiszewski, I., Costanza, B. (2014). The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area: its ‘value’ to residents and tourists Project 10-2 Socioeconomic systems and reef resilience. Final Report to the National Environmental Research Program. Reef and Rainforest Research Centre Limited, Cairns (68pp.).

Published by the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre on behalf of the Australian Government’s National Environmental Research Program (NERP) Tropical Ecosystems (TE) Hub.

Media contact: Josh Coates, Marine Programs Coordinator, (07) 4032 1586, email: marine [at]


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Everyday Change

Category : Community , Marine Team

Everyday Change

Here in Queensland’s far North we enjoy one of the most diverse and beautiful marine environments in the world. Our ocean, reefs, estuaries and marine life need our help to survive and prosper.

We can all help to ensure the health of our marine ecosystems with everyday good habits.

Taking Care of the Reef

This guide to Reef Care was written by Paddy Colwell of ReefTeach. Paddy’s professional life is dedicated teaching visitors to Cairns about the Great Barrier Reef at his nightly seminars. Paddy also leads guided dives and teaches a four-day reef biology course, which combines two days of guided diving with 8 hours of instruction on reef biology. You can learn more about ReefTeach offerings at this link.

We urge you to be aware how your actions and decisions impact reef and other ocean ecosystems worldwide. This short guide is intended to help you protect the ocean environment.

Your at-home lifestyle

While your home may seem far away from the Great Barrier Reef, you do have an impact on it, and also on your local coastal waters. Current theory is connecting global climate change with increased bleaching events on coral reefs worldwide, which are caused by unusually warm ocean temperatures. Do your part and use fossil fuels in your life wisely and carefully. Any decision that you make which reduces your energy use helps, and will also save you money by reducing your power and fuel spending.

Some ideas to reduce your part in global warming

Reduce electric use – Use low energy light bulbs. Insulate your home from heat and cold. Shift your home electronics away from standby power settings

Reduce auto use – Drive less, share a ride, use public transportation, walk or ride a bike when you can. (Both the owners of commute to work by bike.)

Lobby for climate change legislation – Lean on your government a bit, and let them know you care about reducing the impact of global climate change.

Educate yourself and be active – Join a conservation group that works on issues you care about.
Buy environmentally friendly electricity: In many places you can choose to purchase power that is generated in more environmentally friendly ways. Call your energy supplier to ask about it.

Ways you can reduce the addition of chemicals to the environment

Use low phosphate/low nitrate detergents – Phosphates and nitrates found in detergents act like fertilizers in rivers, lakes and oceans, and are not removed by the normal sewage treatment process. Purchase and use detergents with lower levels of these chemicals.

Reduce garden chemical use – The fertilizers and chemicals you use in your garden can wash into and affect your local streams, and eventually the ocean also. Use garden chemicals wisely, and only in the amounts recommended.

Dispose of excess household chemicals properly – Dispose of your motor oil, solvents, old paint, and other chemicals properly. Please do not flush them or dump them in storm drains. Check with the folks that haul your trash where these items can be disposed of, many communities now maintain special disposal centers for these items.

Buy organic produce – Organic produce is grown without many of the agricultural chemicals that end up in rivers and oceans.

Buy fish that are being caught sustainably – Many species of fish are being over fished, and their populations are dropping. Buy fish species that are not being over fished. A great guide to sustainable fishing, with an extensive list of species to buy and to avoid can be found at the Audubon Society’s Living Ocean Campaign Website.

While On the Reef

Don’t touch anything – Touching hard corals and other organisms can damage and kill them. As some have stinging cells and sharp spines, they can also damage you back. Avoid both problems by keeping your hands off.

No souvenirs – Hard coral bits and shells look way better alive in their natural habitat. Resist the urge to take anything away. (It’s against the law too.)

Maintain buoyancy – Divers, the better you control your buoyancy the less often you or your gear will bash into the coral, saving both you and the coral needless damage. You will also find finning gets easier, and you’ll use air more slowly when you dial in your buoyancy.

Strap down your gauges and spare regulator – If these items are dangling below you, they will drag along the bottom, bashing coral and other life as you go. Strap these down so that they are closer to your body, but still accessible.

Watch your fins – They can do a lot of damage, especially to sea fans and the like, be aware of where you fins are.

Careful on swim-throughs – The less contact, the less wear and tear, to the coral and to you, take your time and take care.

No litter – Don’t leave anything in the water. Litter kills wildlife.

Don’t feed fish – It encourages them to approach divers too closely, and oftentimes eat things that are unhealthy for them to eat. Do so only under the guidelines of the divemaster.

Don’t ride sea turtles and manta rays – It’s a great treat to see a sea turtle or large ray, they can be abundant on the Great Barrier Reef at times, but are in decline nearly everywhere else. Help protect these endangered species.

Choose reef trips and adventure activities that are operated in an ecologically sensitive manner – Look for the Ecotourism logo on the tour descriptions in this website, which is a sign that these tours are operated in a sustainable manner. In this part of Australia most operators recognize that their business health relies on environmental health, and do their part to operate in a low-impact manner.

Fishing and Boating

Propeller Cowl – Putting a cowl on your propeller not only protects your equipment, but protects marine life also.

Take care with paint, lubricants and fuel – Make sure that these toxins do not get into the water.

Replace your old outboard engine – Old two-stroke outboard engines put a lot of unburnt fuel and oil into the water. If your outboard engine is more than five years old think about replacing it with a new, cleaner engine. The new technology is five times (or more!) cleaner than old outboards.

Fish for fun, not for the bag limit – Catch what you need, release the rest, always pay attention to bag and size limits, which are intended to prevent overfishing.

Anchor techniques – Learn how to anchor your boat safely in sandy or muddy bottoms, which sustain less damage from anchors and anchor chains than coral reefs do.

Slow down – watch for surface life

Report injured and stranded marine mammals and turtles – Know who to call in your local area.

Bring back your trash – and pick up a few extra pieces.


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What We Do

Category : Front Page , Marine Team

Raise Community Awareness 2 logos

Save The Reef Rally– Protect Our Inlet

On April 6th 2014 the Cairns and Far North Community came together to express their concern with proposals to dredge to expand Cairns Port, and other dredging / port expansions along the Queensland coast.

This highly successful event was attended by a broad range of community members and featured talks from Bob Irwin, Josh Coates, June Norman and Paris Chadburn, music and a march through town.

Click here for more information on this event.

Provide The Facts About Proposals

The Marine Team puts large amounts of time in to establishing what is proposed and providing that information in simple terms. Also the team puts together many other resources that will help community members understand the proposals and what they mean for our marine ecosystems.

Cairns Proposals

Tackle the Issues


What is the Future of The Great Barrier Reef? – Community Survey

Cairns Port Dredging proposal (Cairns Shipping Development Project)

The results of the community survey indicate an overwhelmingly high level of concern regarding the proposal to dredge over 5 million cubic meters of mud to expand the shipping channel into Trinity Inlet.

When survey participants were asked how concerned they were about the proposal over 95% of respondents indicated they were concerned and  75% stated they were ‘very concerned’.

85.5% of respondents support a ban on dumping of dredge spoil in Great Barrier Reef waters.

Read more…


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Shark Conservation

Category : Marine Team , Projects

Why do sharks matter in the Great Barrier Reef?

Healthy coral reefs need sharks. In a coral reef ecosystem sharks are a top-level predator, sometimes called the apex predator. They are an important part of a reef’s ecosystem helping to maintain balance. A vulnerability assessment of sharks and rays on the Great Barrier Reef has determined some important facts about the role of sharks in the health of the GBR. There are currently 134 known species of sharks and rays.

Changing the balance of species in an ecosystem has a flow-on effect on other species in that ecosystem.

Hammerhead shark ©Mary Katherine Winn /

Hammerhead shark
©Mary Katherine Winn /

For example, if you remove sharks, the species those sharks would have eaten are likely to increase in number. The increased number of those species will likely have a greater impact on the species they eat, as there are now so many more ‘mouths’ to feed, and on it goes. Independently and in combination with other reef stressors, the health of entire reef ecosystems is significantly reduced.

Current threats to the Great Barrier Reef include:

  • commercial fishing
  • recreational fishing
  • coastal development
  • climate change and ocean warming and acidification, which result in coral bleaching
  • a new coal mine, which means new dredging and more shipping traffic (more coal mining also means the negative effects of climate change are likely to be worse.)
  • increased dredging and dumping at Abbott Point
  • extensive new dredging proposed in the port of Cairns to allow cruise liners to enter
  • nutrient-rich run-off from land-based activities
  • crown of thorns starfish
  • coral damage from cyclones and storms (it can take decades for a coral reef to recover from these).

Scientists are already warning of the deteriorating health of our incredible Great Barrier Reef. Adding yet another stressor to the coral systems may be more than they can take.

How much do you really know about sharks?

We often fear the things we don’t understand, and learning about the behaviour and habits of any potentially dangerous animal reduces your risk of harm.

Why do some people fear sharks? 

©CBPix /

©CBPix /

Are you afraid of sharks? Test yourself — what do you think of when you think of a shark? You probably don’t have the warm, fuzzy feelings you might when you think of a kitten or a puppy — sharks aren’t quite so cute to most of us. But, do you have the ‘Urgh!’ response? Do you think of rows of sharp teeth and fear being attacked by them? If so – why?

Maybe you have seen Jaws, the movie. This 1975 ‘thriller’ was a blockbuster in its day and has helped to shape the view many of us have of sharks. It was about a fictional person-gobbling great white shark with a taste for human flesh. Real sharks weren’t used in filming — instead mechanical monsters were used. Anyone who watched this horror film would understandably fear sharks as a result if they didn’t know much else about them.

How dangerous are sharks really?

Sure, sharks have killed people and given others horrible injuries. In Queensland, in the last 160 years (until 2013) there have been no fewer than 71 human deaths attributed to shark attack.  This figure averages to 0.4 deaths per year, or just under one human death every two years, due to shark attack. Every time a person is killed by a shark it is, of course, tragic. But, it is rare, especially when you compare it to other dangers.

How dangerous are our roads?

In 2013 there were 270 fatalities on Queensland’s roads.  So, do we worry we’ll be killed every time we get into our cars? If we were logical, we would be more worried about being harmed in a road accident than swimming in the sea. (Speaking of swimming, do you know how many people drown each year? In 2013, 64 people drowned in Queensland.  Hmmm … that’s more than 128 times the average number of people killed by sharks in Queensland each year.)

How dangerous are dogs?

Consider our ‘best friends’ for a moment. Around 13 000 people, including many young children, present at hospital emergency departments in Australia each year as a result of dog attacks. Yet we love our dogs.

So, if we were logical and rational, we’d have more swimming lessons, drive less, take more care with kids around dogs, and we wouldn’t be nearly so anxious about being attacked by sharks.

Do divers fear sharks?

Interestingly, many scuba divers who spend a lot of time close to sharks, unprotected by cages, don’t fear sharks. Have you ever wondered why they are able to swim safely with sharks? Don’t they have more reason than anyone to fear sharks?

If Shark Girl isn’t afraid of them, why are we?

Shark numbers are declining 

Maybe sharks should fear us. Humans kill unsustainable numbers of sharks each year. Estimates vary as much illegal fishing targets sharks and the ‘take’ is not recorded. But, we do know that the numbers are high and the practice is unsustainable. Sea Shepherd estimates the number at 73 million sharks per year.

Shark stocks are believed to be only 10% of their pre-industrial biomass, and this is declining. This isn’t surprising as they can take up to 20 years to reach sexual maturity and, unlike many other fish, don’t spawn large numbers of offspring.

Fishing for shark fin 

Black tip reef sharks © Ruthblack /

Black tip reef sharks
© Ruthblack /

The illegal trade in shark fins to supply the demand for shark fin soup is huge. Shark fins fetch a high price in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and China. Shark fin soup is a banquet food in ethnically Chinese cultures. With the high population and increasing affluence of the middle class in China, demand for shark fin soup is growing. Numerous boats have been caught fishing illegally in northern Australian waters to supply this profitable trade, which involves catching sharks and hacking their fins off, usually while they are still alive. The disabled sharks often are then released back into the water. Without fins they can’t swim so they sink to the bottom to die a slow death. Because the fins sell for so much more than the rest of the shark it is most profitable to keep just the fins. This trade is not only cruel — it is also wasteful.

Bycatch and flake

Bycatch of sharks is also contributing to their falling numbers. Bycatch is when species other than the target species is caught. Sometimes these species are kept and sold. Often they are killed regardless.

Shark is often sold in Australian fish and chip shops as flake. Eating flake helps to create a demand for shark products, which contributes to their demise.

Deliberate culling using nets and drum lines

Due to human fear of shark attack, many beaches in Queensland are ‘protected’ from sharks by nets and drumlines (baited hooks). Research has shown that shark nets and drum lines are not particularly effective, could potentially increase the risk of shark attack, and that there are better ways of managing shark and human interaction such as towing sharks out to sea. The impact of nets and drum lines on other species is also significant.

How does the future look for sharks? 

© Philcold /

© Philcold /

In a word: grim. Culling and overfishing, including illegal fishing, in combination with their slow maturation rate and low fecundity (sharks have few young) means that it is difficult for shark populations to recover from over-exploitation. As a result, sharks are in serious trouble and if the current rate of decimation of shark populations continues, many species of shark are on a path to extinction.

Why don’t we care more about this? Maybe many people just don’t realise what’s happening. Or, perhaps, is it because we have an irrational fear of sharks that we don’t see their demise as a problem? But, we should care. Healthy oceans need sharks and we need healthy oceans!

How you can help sharks

©Konstik /

©Konstik /

If sharks are to avoid extinction they need our help. There are many things you can do and ways you can get involved to help sharks to survive humans.

These films might inspire you …

Shark Girl


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Category : Marine Team

Dredging spoils the Origin – the reef bunch

What Do You Know?