How the Reef is managed

We are responsible for ensuring the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – one of the world's greatest natural treasures - is protected for the future.

An ecosystem based approach is used, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is widely recognised as one of the best managed marine protected areas in the world.

The Marine Park is a multiple-use area that supports a range of communities and industries that depend on the Reef for recreation or their livelihoods. Tourism, fishing, boating and shipping are all legitimate uses of the Marine Park. 

The entire Marine Park is covered by a Zoning Plan that identifies where particular activities are permitted and where some are not permitted.

The Zoning Plan separates conflicting uses, with 33 per cent of the Marine Park afforded marine national park status where fishing and collecting is not permitted.

In high use areas near Cairns and the Whitsunday Islands, special Plans of Management are in place in addition to the underlying Zoning Plan,

In addition, other Special Management Areas have been to created for particular types of protection, such as the Dugong Protection Areas.

In most of the adjoining waters, the Queensland Government provides complementary zoning in virtually all the World Heritage Area.

The GBRMPA and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service operate a joint program of education, compliance and enforcement to support the rules governing protection of the ecosystem.

Under an agreement with the Australian Government, Fisheries Queensland undertakes much of the fisheries management within the Marine Park.

In 2007, our Act was amended adding specific references to protecting World Heritage values, and ecosystem-based management, sustainability, and the precautionary principle.

Our priorities are based on the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report that is published every five years providing an important stock-take of the Reef, its management, and its longer-term outlook.

The Outlook Report highlighted that the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world and remains one of the most healthy coral reef ecosystems.

However, there are issues affecting the health of the Reef - climate change, continued declining water quality from catchment run-off, loss of coastal habitats from coastal development and a small number of impacts from fishing.

Many of the threats to the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem are the result of actions beyond the boundaries of the Great Barrier Reef Region (such as coastal development and catchment land use practices).

There is a range of Australian, Queensland and local Government agencies that have regulatory responsibilities for these matters.

In addition, natural resource management bodies, industry groups, community groups and individuals are involved in addressing these threats and therefore improving outcomes for the Great Barrier Reef Region.

The Australian Government released its State Party Report on the State of Conservation of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area in January 2015. The Great Barrier Reef: pressures, resilience and strong management responses explains our position on issues related to that report. 

Focus of management

Activities to protect and manage the Great Barrier Reef are focused on 12 broad management topics: