SURG Research

Estuarine habitat resilience fact sheets

The following fact sheets are designed to educate the public on the threats to estuary habitats in the Coffs Coast region and how these threats can be mitigated. These fact sheets have been developed in conjunction with interpretive panels on Corindi River, Coffs Creek, Moonee Creek and Boambee Creek. 

Erosion fact sheet
Fishing fact sheet
Litter fact sheet
Seagrass fact sheet


Community Action Blueprint to Enhance Estuarine Habitat Resilience - update

The three-year project, funded by The NSW Environmental Trust and the NSW Recreational Fishing Trust, is nearing completion, the Final Report now being prepared for submission to both funding bodies and other stakeholders.

A few highlights from the draft report reveal overwhelmingly, SURG and public participation has been a huge success, with total participation of 136 individuals. Included in this number were 62 SURG members and 74 members of the general public, while further breakdown of the figures indicate 48 students were among those that took part. In total, 5148 hours were spent on the various activities, which included among other things, Clean-up Australia day surveys, deployment of Baited Remote Underwater Videos (BRUVs), on ground remediation works, seagrass mapping and critter search and Interpretive Panel design and production.

A total of 57 fish species were recorded during the surveys, including two threatened and protected marine species. Importantly, ghost fishing by abandoned crab pots was revealed as a major threat to these and other species when traps were discovered in our estuaries with live or deceased fish trapped inside.

The on-ground remediation work at Corindi River, Red Rock, carried out in March and May 2018, continues to protect a viewing platform and associated river bank. This work carried out by 16 SURG members and 9 members of the Red Rock community involved installation of coir logs, drainage materials and planting of native seedlings and grasses along the eroded bank.

To help inform the general public, a lot of effort has gone into the design and construction of Interpretive Panels and Fact sheets (above). There are four separate panel designs, each one detailing threats unique to each of the 4 estuaries at Corindi River, Moonee Creek, Coffs Creek and Boambee Creek. These panels will be installed at locations adjacent to each estuary, so the general public, fishers and boating enthusiasts will be able understand the issues involved at each location as well as see pictured some of the unique fauna they may encounter.

When completed the final report will be presented to the NSW Environmental Trust and the NSW Recreational Fishing Trust as funding bodies, along with the Coffs Harbour City Council, the Marine Parks Authority, the National Marine Science Centre, NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries), NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and Reflections Holiday Parks, all of which provided valuable support during the project. A pdf version will be available here when the report becomes available.



Current projects

SURG's current project is a community action blueprint to enhance estuarine habitat resilience. SURG members are undertaking in-water estuarine surveys to determine the presence of threatened and protected marine species and identify the critical habitat they rely upon. This project is funded by the Environmental Trust Community Education grant.

The project involves the following:

  • Seagrass cover, areas with complex habitats and deep holes are geo-referenced along four estuaries.
  • Mini-baited underwater video is used to identify species that use these habitats during different seasons.
  • Information collected is used to form the foundation of interpretive educational material to be displayed at high-use locations along the estuaries.
  • Debris surveys and visual censuses are conducted in and adjacent to critical habitats to quantify local threats to critical habitats.
  • Interpretive plaques are placed on estuary boardwalks with brochures and teaching material developed and made available to the wider community via volunteer groups and government websites.​


Past projects

Health of coral communities in the Solitary Islands Marine Park

The completion of the research project Health of coral communities in the Solitary Islands Marine Park was the biggest achievement for 2015 with a total of 12, 805 assessments of corals undertaken.
Click here for the full report. (10.7mb)
This 3 year project engaged trained volunteers using the Coral Health Chart developed by Coral Watch in conjunction with the University of Queensland. At various sites throughout the Solitary Islands Marine Park, volunteers assessed coral health using the standard protocol and provided medium term monitoring of coral health throughout the park.

Monitoring specified marine fish species - indicators of climate change, was conducted under the Caring for our Country - Community Action Grant. SURG volunteers surveyed sites throughout the marine park using a representative fish species list. This provided information indicating frequency of occurrence as well as relative abundance data that will be indicative of changing distributions of species as a result of events like climate change. The information generated will be added to a database curated by Southern Cross University thus linking it to a state wide program funded by NSW Coastal Management Authorities.


SURG members have also been involved in many other research projects in the Solitary Islands Marine Park since 1985, some of which were:

  • The compilation of a small booklet containing identification details and photographs of marine animals found in the local waters. Examples of nudibranchs, crustaceans and echinoderms were among those featured.
  • Mapping eight major underwater habitats found around the islands in the Marine Park. This mapping was conducted before the formation of the Marine Park and the information collected using quadrat and line transect methods formed the basis of the early zoning plans for the Marine Reserve and then the Marine Park.
  • Investigation into the phenomenon of coral bleaching. Tagged corals at a number of sites around the northern islands of the Marine Park were photographically monitored. Regular inspections of these corals plus random 30m transects of the sea bottom to determine coral density resulted in a wealth of information invaluable to researchers of the Marine Park.