This project is supported through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.


These islands are an important part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA).

Their natural beauty, complex ecosystems and cultural sites contribute to the Outstanding Universal Value of the GBRWHA.

They attract visitors from around the world; and they support species of national significance.

It is imperative we preserve them.

Thanks to funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, Reef Catchments has been able to complete a range of works to protect and enhance islands within the GBRWHA.

Work would not have been possible without key project partners, Wild Mob and Eco Barge Clean Seas. This project began in June 2018 and will conclude June 2023.


Project activities include:

  • Manage invasive weed species on Goldsmith Island
  • Remove marine debris from our island coastlines
  • Monitor seagrass across the region to ensure key feeding habitats for marine turtles, migratory shorebirds and other important species are protected
  • Investigate turtle nesting sites on island rookeries, addressing knowledge gaps
  • Raise awareness of the Indigenous Saltwater People cultural heritage
  • Provide opportunities for the local community to be involved, and develop communications products to share learnings
PICTURED: Island clean-up on Goldsmith Island, invasive weed species Lantana camara, green turtle coming up for a breath, native blue tiger butterfly, traditional owner artefact, marine debris on Eco Barge, volunteer removing weeds.


Volunteers are a key part of this important initiative to monitor key seagrass sites at Hydeaway Bay, Pioneer Bay, Dingo Beach, St Helens and Clairview. Monitoring is critical as it provides a baseline and lets us know how our seagrass communities are changing over time.

Seagrass meadows provide habitat for a range of species, including the critically endangered Eastern Curlew, marine turtles and dugong, which rely on seagrass for food.

The seagrass data collected contributes to the state-wide Marine Monitoring Program, and feeds locally into the Mackay Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership Report Card. Seagrass health is an important indicator of water quality.

Pictured - Dugong trail.

Seagrass ecosystems are of national significance due their role in sustaining fisheries and as a food source for endangered marine mammals.


Goldsmith is the largest island in a group of continental islands off Mackay.

With 674 hectares of National Park, low levels of human impact make Goldsmith an ideal site to preserve. Low open woodlands and eucalypt forest, brush box, wattles and grass trees form a backdrop to the rocky coastline. There are long sandy beaches on the northern and western side of the island lined with casuarinas and pandanus. The island is surrounded by fringing coral reef.

30 ha of Goldsmith Island has been treated for weeds. The main camping area (approximately 6 ha) is targeted in particular for removal of weeds. The reason for this is twofold:

  1. Since people are one of the main ways weeds are introduced to islands, camping areas are often ground zero for weed invasions
  2. By removing weeds from camping areas, the risk of visitors spreading weeds to other parts of the islands is lowered.

Weed control on Goldsmith Island is focused on managing invasive weed species, including rhoeo (Tradescantia), painted spurge (Euphorbia heterophylla) and lantana (Lantana camara), amongst others.

Left unchecked, these weeds can cause considerable damage to the integrity of the island’s vegetation, competing with native species.

PICTURED: Volunteer pulling flowering painted spurge, site where volunteers have removed painted spurge from the camping area (before and after), pile of rhoeo that volunteers have removed, rhoeo established under native canopy.


To protect our region’s turtle population, we need more information.

2001 was the last time that detailed surveying of islands off Mackay for turtle nesting was completed.

This project facilitates monitoring of known turtle nesting islands and helps us to fill knowledge gaps to make important conservation decisions ahead.

As part of this project, two turtle nest monitoring expeditions will take place every year, focused on flatback and green turtle nesting sites at known high-priority nesting islands. We are looking for any threats to turtle nesting such as problem weeds, erosion of beaches and feral animals. This information will help inform decision making and future projects.


“There has been very little information collected about turtle nesting on Mackay Whitsunday islands since 2001. Monitoring gives us a better understanding of what’s going on, and what actions we need to take to make sure the nesting is as successful as possible.”

Cass Hayward, Reef Catchments Coasts & Biodiversity Officer.

Next generation, on board - Youth Ambassador program

The purpose of the Youth Ambassador component of our islands program is to involve the youth in conservation, and develop the environmental stewards of the future.

Through years 2019-2023, Reef Catchments will continue to seek to engage young people through the youth ambassador funding, giving them real world experience in project management and conservation.

In 2018-19, a group of students from Silkwood School were engaged to produce a video about biosecurity on the Great Barrier Reef islands.

The young people designed their own plan, budget and logistics to go to Goldsmith Island and collect footage to develop a video. This project was linked to their school curriculum and a senior high school project.

Take a look at their incredible product, here.

Reef Catchments' 2019-2020 Youth Ambassadors were a group of eight students from Sarina State High School.

This group travelled to Daydream Island to learn about tipping points between coral and algae dominated ecosystems. The students helped Daydream Island's Living Reef staff to remove algae from Lovers Cove, to make space for live corals to re-grow.


Reef Catchments worked with Eco Barge Clean Seas, engaging them to remove marine debris from islands and beaches of the Whitsundays.

Marine debris is a major hazard for marine wildlife. Many species of turtles, marine mammals, birds and fish are injured or killed getting tangled in marine debris, or from eating it.

Five trips have been delivered so far.

The trips saw 42 volunteers remove 1,219 kg of marine debris across 33.15 ha of beach.

It all adds up – since 2013, Reef catchments have funded Eco Barge to remove over 10,000kg of marine debris from over 460ha of island ecosystems.

Now that’s a good, clean effort!


This project is supported by Reef Catchments, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

Created By
Jaime Newborn