Top 10 actions to protect the Great Barrier Reef released today

Ramping up compliance and protecting resilient reefs — among the top 10 actions that will be used to manage the Great Barrier Reef under the Reef Blueprint launched today.

Developed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Australia’s lead managers of the Great Barrier Reef, the Blueprint responds to the unprecedented pressures faced on the Reef over the last two years.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chairman Dr Russell Reichelt said innovative approaches and new technologies would now be business as usual on the Great Barrier Reef.

“Over the last two years we’ve seen major climate change-driven impacts on the Great Barrier Reef — the resulting decline in the Reef’s ecological health is unprecedented in our lifetime and represents a genuine crisis,” Dr Reichelt said.

“The Blueprint signals a new direction for managing this great natural icon and outlines 10 key initiatives for Reef management, focused on actions that deliver maximum benefits for Reef resilience.

“It clearly highlights key environmental actions, helping give focus to government, industries and communities who wish to be involved in Reef protection.”

The Blueprint’s centrepiece is identifying and better protecting a resilience network, made up of individual reefs in the Marine Park that play a vital role in regenerating other reefs damaged after major disturbances.

Generally, these are reefs that are less exposed to high water temperature and cyclones because of their location or depth and have high coral cover.

These reefs are well connected to other downstream reefs by ocean currents — coral larvae (baby corals) from these reefs travel on the ocean currents and settle on other downstream reefs.

“These reefs will be protected through enhanced compliance with zoning, crown-of-thorns starfish control, stewardship approaches to protecting key species such as herbivores and corals, and, in the future, implementing restoration actions,” Dr Reichelt said.

“These protections will ensure those reefs are better able to deal with pressures and, through their role supporting other reefs downstream, will help other reefs recover from impacts.”

Crown-of-thorns starfish control will also be ramped up with more boats and trained culling teams.

There is a high ongoing risk to corals from the coral-eating starfish and control efforts are underway.

A third crown-of-thorns control vessel will soon be added to the control program and the Australian Government has committed to continue funding the control program until June 2020.

The Marine Park Authority will educate and work with those out on the water, such as fishers, about the importance of species, such as plant-eating fish that aid recovery by controlling seaweed after bleaching.

In-water trials are underway to test and develop methods to restore reefs of critical importance.

This includes collecting and rearing baby corals and releasing them on to natural reefs, as part of a trial to accelerate the regeneration of coral areas.

“Earlier this year, we drew on the expertise of 70 top coral reef experts who attended our Reef Summit to establish these additional actions and innovative approaches to manage the Great Barrier Reef,” Dr Reichelt said.

“The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will lead implementation, with the plan’s success depending on partners committing similarly-focused expertise, resources and efforts.

“The initiatives in the Blueprint will only work if there is strong global action to adopt renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Global action on climate change is vital —including implementation of the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work towards reducing temperature increases closer to 1.5°C — not just the 2°C overarching target.”

The Blueprint’s 10 key initiatives range from supporting resilient reefs and on-ground work to empowering people and fostering change:

  1. Identifying and protecting a resilience network
  2. Dramatically enhancing compliance
  3. Ramping up crown-of-thorns starfish control
  4. Protecting key species for reef recovery
  5. Active, localised restoration
  6. Accelerating actions to address climate change
  7. Fostering partnerships for actions and innovation
  8. Adapting policy and legislation
  9. Developing decision-support systems
  10. Building awareness and support

Download the Blueprint from