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27 November, 2020

Live coral spawning broadcast

For the first time ever, the once-yearly spectacular underwater phenomenon of coral spawning will be broadcast live across Australia and the world from Moore Reef, just off Cairns.

By Tanya Murphy

REEF LIVE will air across two big nights on Friday December 4 at 8:30pm and Sunday December 6 at 8:40pm on ABC TV and iView and will draw attention to the amazing regenerative powers of the reef as well as the threats it faces and the people working to protect it.

In a world first, Port Douglas local marine biologist Dr Dean Miller will use a full-face diving mask equipped with a microphone to speak to audiences across the world and explain coral spawning in real-time as it is occurring at the Sunlover Reef Cruises pontoon at Moore Reef.

Freediver and marine scientist Lucas Handley, and shark advocate Madison Stewart will also do an underwater live cross from Heron Island, off the coast of Gladstone, while Dr Ann Jones, host of RN’s natural history program Off Track, will cover coral spawning in captivity by broadcasting from the world famous hi-tech Seasimulator in Townsville.

Thanks to the recently announced opening of Queensland borders, Television hosts Hamish Macdonald (Q+A, The Project), Brooke Satchwell (SeaChange) and Dr Jordan Nguyen (scientist and inventor) will present the show from a studio at Cairns Aquarium, joined by an array of experts looking at ways to preserve the natural and cultural heritage for the reef for the future.

They will discuss Indigenous perspectives, conservation initiatives and how we can all get involved in citizen science projects.

Segments will also be shown about scientists who are capturing the spawn in a race against time to help regenerate the reef before it’s too late, and various other local organisations helping to preserve the reef.

Dr Miller said the show would be a huge boost in publicity for the reef, the region and for the people fighting to protect the reef.

“The spawning event is a great opportunity to show to the nation and the world that the Great Barrier Reef is resilient, it’s spectacular, and it’s still here and worth fighting for,” he said.

“Cairns will be featured very prominently in the show, as well as segments about the Minke Whale Project, the Living Coral Biobank Project and lots of other exciting things people are doing to help the reef.

“It’s a really great way to get the whole nation and people online across the world to share in the wonder and excitement of the largest living structure on the planet.”

Corals across the 2400 kilometre length of the Great Barrier Reef reproduce in a synchronized ‘mass spawning event’ every year, by releasing eggs and sperm into the water across a few nights, which always occur in spring after a full moon, and are also influenced by water temperatures, tides and salinity levels.

The world’s best coral scientists worked with the ABC to predict the spawning dates for the broadcast.

Karina Holden from show producers Northern Pictures, said it was an exciting challenge to take on, with more than 140 crew coming to Cairns two days in advance to prepare for the broadcast.

“Broadcasting live from underwater, at night time, on the Great Barrier Reef is a massive logistical challenge with high stakes, but we’ve been advised by the best experts, and we’re hoping it’ll be a bumper year for spawning and we’ll be there right in the thick of it,” she said.

The show is being produced in partnership with Screen Australia and Screen Queensland.


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