How the Reef is managed

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is responsible for ensuring the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park—one of the world's greatest natural treasures—is protected for the future.

As a World Heritage Area, the Reef is recognised internationally for its outstanding universal value.

For 40 years we've managed this biologically diverse icon and multiple-use area, using the best available scientific information and input from marine managers, researchers, experts and Traditional Owners.

Our management is guided by a range of plans, policies, regulations and legislation, with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 setting out our functions and responsibilities.

We directly manage activities in the Marine Park, implement plans and policies for Reef use and protection, and work with communities and industries that depend on a healthy Reef for recreation and their livelihoods.

Tourism, fishing, boating and shipping are all legitimate uses of the Marine Park. 

Focus for management

The Marine Park is widely recognised as one of the best managed marine protected areas in the world, and it's management involves ensuring environmental protection while allowing for national, state and community interests in sustainable use.

Our Outlook Report and strategic assessment highlight threats to the Reef and its values, helping us to understand the priority areas for management. Our 25-year management plan outlines our mix of on-ground work, policies, strategies and engagement.

Our actions include:

  • controlling crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks
  • ensuring cumulative impacts are considered when assessing development proposals
  • monitoring the health of the ecosystem on a Reef-wide scale
  • implementing a Reef Recovery program to restore sites of high environmental value in regional areas

We’re also working with other Australian and Queensland government agencies, industries and the community to implement the Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability Plan, an overarching framework for Reef management.

Reef 2050 includes a Reef Trust, which will use Australian Government and private funds to focus on improving coastal habitats and water quality throughout the Reef and adjacent catchments.

Managing threats

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 climate change, coastal development and catchment land use practices).

Zoning, permits and plans

Regulatory tools—such as our Zoning Plan, plans of management, permits and policies—enable us to manage activities that take place in the multiple-use Marine Park which extends over 99 per cent of the World Heritage Area.

The entire Marine Park is covered by a zoning plan. This operates similar to a town plan, by identifying where particular activities can and cannot occur.

Management partnerships

Protection and management of the Great Barrier Reef region is a partnership between many government agencies, stakeholders and the public.

For example, the Authority and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service operate a joint field management program of education, compliance and enforcement to support rules aimed at protecting the ecosystem, and Fisheries Queensland undertakes much of the fisheries management within the Marine Park.

In addition, the Federal Environment Department is responsible for implementing the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999; Maritime Border Command provides aerial surveillance of the region; and the Australian Institute of Marine Science undertakes research.

Register of management arrangements