Exploring the Coral Sea Marine Park: A Voyage to Preserve Island Health and Biodiversity

Project Coordinator Ian recently joined Parks Australia staff, volunteers, and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) field rangers on an exciting 14-day voyage. They embarked on a journey to explore 12 stunning cays and islets located in the central and far eastern regions of the Coral Sea Marine Park (CSMP).

This marked the fourth major voyage organized by Parks Australia in support of the CSMP Island Health Project, which was initiated back in 2018. Previous expeditions successfully assessed the health of 48 cays and islets, including the Coringa Islets, Herald Cays, Diamond Islets, Lihou Reef cays, and various others. The latest voyage aimed to complete the island health assessments for all 54 permanent cays and islets in the CSMP, with a special focus on revisiting high priority vegetated areas.

The primary objectives of the CSMP Island Health Voyage 2023 were to evaluate the terrestrial flora and fauna of six unassessed cays and islets, assess the presence of invasive species, study seabird species and breeding levels, collect samples of ants and invertebrates for identification, and ultimately compile a comprehensive Islands Health Assessment Report. Additionally, the expedition aimed to monitor the progress of six previously assessed high priority areas, install new CSMP signage on five vegetated islands, and conduct marine debris clean-ups, removal, and data collection across all 12 islands visited.

Departing from Gladstone (QLD) on May 26, the participants embarked on the voyage aboard the R.V. Infamis, a remarkable vessel owned and operated by Blue Planet Marine. This 34.95-meter steel-hulled vessel, originally a Japanese fisheries patrol and research vessel, offered the perfect platform for exploration. Throughout the journey, the team collected a staggering 1,004 kilograms of debris, consisting of 4,317 items. Notable finds included hard plastic remnants, plastic lids, plastic drink bottles, and thongs.

The CSMP Island Health Voyage 2023 was an incredible endeavor, contributing valuable data and insights to the preservation of these precious marine ecosystems. The dedication and efforts of the team involved have brought us closer to understanding and protecting the diverse flora and fauna inhabiting these beautiful cays and islets in the Coral Sea Marine Park.

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