Hard and soft corals alongside the Sunlover Moore Reef Marine Base, 54km off Cairns, spawned last night, after a spectacular display by the Great Barrier Reef’s soft corals the night before.

Coral Spawning is basically the reef having sex. Coral polyps simultaneously release egg and sperm bundles that they’ve spent months growing into the ocean for external fertilisation.

This happens in a mass annual event, after the full moon, often affectionately named the world’s largest orgasm on the world’s largest organism!

“It’s literally just an eruption that lasts for 20 minutes to a half an hour, where the whole Great Barrier Reef just has sex, with coral polyps releasing. Clams go. Sea cucumbers go. Starfish go. Everything just goes. It’s literally a mass orgy. It’s the biggest sexual event on the planet.”

Gareth Phillips, Marine Biologist


Hope for the Reef

Karry on - Coral Spawning

Image: Gabriel Guzman, Sunlover Moore Reef Marine Base

Marine biologists Stuart Ireland from Calypso Productions, Gareth Phillips from Reef Teach, and Pablo Cogollos from Sunlover Reef Cruises were based on the Sunlover Moore Reef Marine Base to capture photos and video of the night-time coral spawning.

Stuart Ireland, who has been filming the coral spawn every year since 1996 including the past eight years at Sunlover’s Moore Reef Marine Base, said it was one of the best displays he had seen in years.

“The corals are really looking spectacular since the bleaching events of 2016 and 2017,” he said. “The variety of hard and soft corals releasing eggs and sperm into the water was astounding.”

“There was coral spawn everywhere last night. It was like a grey haze with beautiful pink bundles going up – it was a magical night,”

Stuart Ireland, Marine Biologist

Karry on - Coral Spawning

Image: Gabriel Guzman, Sunlover Moore Reef Marine Base

Gareth Phillips said “Stuart and I have been filming the spawning as a team for five years and this is the best I’ve seen. It’s a testament of how resilient the Great Barrier Reef really is.”

“We expect to see more pressures in the future, but the Great Barrier Reef’s size, complexity and huge biodiversity makes it a very strong ecosystem.”

“We need to nurture the reef through collaboration between tourism operators such as Sunlover, filmmakers like Stuart from Calypso, and reef research and educators like myself at Reef Teach.”

“The reef has shown us that she is not lying down; she is doing extremely well and fighting for the future.”

Gareth Phillips, Reef Teach

The 2019 coral spawning is fantastic news for our beloved Great Barrier Reef and continues to prove that nature really is the best.

Click here for more information about the Moore Reef Marine Base.