Commercial and non-commercial use
5.6 Recreation (not including fishing)
5.6.1 Current state and trends of recreation
Recreation is defined as an independent visit to the Region for enjoyment that is not part of a commercial operation. It is distinct from tourism and charter fishing where a visitor pays to use a commercial operation (Section 5.2). People living adjacent to the Region, as well as domestic and international visitors, use the Region for a wide range of recreational activities, including fishing, snorkelling, diving, swimming, boating, beach and island walking, sightseeing, relaxing and socialising. For residents of the catchment, going to the beach, fishing (Section 5.4) and boating were the most popular activities in 2013 (Figure 5.18).13 The most popular offshore destinations for recreational visitors to the Region are islands, followed by reefs, shoals, cays and wrecks.121
Figure 5.18 Main activities of catchment residents in the Great Barrier reef, 2013
The graph shows the percentage of residents surveyed who undertake each type of activity more than once a year. Going to the beach was the most popular activity for residents, followed by fishing and boating. Source: Stoeckl et al. 201313
The number of recreational visits from residents in the catchment appears to have risen substantially between 2003 and 2008, most likely as a result of three factors: population growth, an increase in the proportion of the population visiting the Region and a rise in the average number of visits each person makes.121 It is estimated that 87 per cent of residents in coastal towns adjacent to the Region have visited the area for recreation.13 The majority of coastal town residents feel there is no better place to undertake the recreation activities they enjoy than the Great Barrier Reef.26 There has been a steady increase in vessel registrations over the past few decades (Figure 5.19) which is likely to have translated into more recreational vessel trips in the Region. Townsville and Mackay have the highest numbers of vessel registrations adjacent to the Region (Figure 5.20). Improving vessel and navigational technology has presumably influenced the distribution of recreational activities within the Region.
Figure 5.19 Number of recreational vessels registered in the catchment, 1987–2013
The number of vessels registered in areas close to the Great Barrier Reef has continued to increase. Source: Department of Transport and Main
Management Recreational activities that do not involve fishing can be undertaken in almost all of the Region. Many Australian and Queensland government agencies are responsible for managing aspects of recreational use of the Region. In the more intensively used areas (such as offshore Cairns and the Whitsundays), detailed arrangements for reducing the impacts of recreation (and tourism) are outlined in plans of management, including specifying group and vessel size limits and no anchoring areas. Public moorings are provided throughout the Region at some of the more popular recreational locations. Public education and encouraging users to adopt best practices play a major part in managing recreational use, along with compliance activities. Recreational vessel and personal watercraft registration and licensing are managed by Maritime Safety Queensland. The Recreation Management Strategy for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park122 provides an overarching framework for the management of recreation by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
5.6.2 Benefits of recreation
The opportunity to enjoy the Region’s environment is of enormous community benefit.