The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park’s dive operators are a privileged group: they get the chance to show off one of the world’s greatest natural treasures to their clients. Scuba diving offers a fantastic passport to this enchanted world and is an exhilarating way to explore it.

Although divers have had minimal impact upon the Marine Park so far, there are times when some divers may get a little too close and stress the marine life or inadvertently crush and break corals. Most damage is from not maintaining good control in the water (for example, through fighting a current, trying to get up close, or taking photographs).

With your help in promoting good dive practices, we’ll be able to better preserve this special world for future divers to experience.

Responsible Reef Practices

In general

  • Enhance the quality of your client’s dive experience by educating them about the environment they’ll visit.
  • Brief divers on responsible reef practices, proper behaviour, rules of the reef, and the local marine life – review these briefings regularly to ensure that you are providing up-to-date information.
  • Prepare your divers for their World Heritage experience - provide onboard interpretation (for example, posters, brochures, displays, talks, presentations, and videos) on diving, marine life and Great Barrier Reef World Heritage values.
  • Include responsible reef practices in your operational procedures and manuals.

Preparing for a dive

  • Keep dive group sizes small (six or less people).
  • Provide written material in different languages as required.
  • Make sure everyone is properly weighted before diving near a reef.
  • Check that all the divers have secured their dive gear before they get into the water so that it doesn’t dangle and catch on the reef.
  • Give adequate instruction on best buoyancy practices - check new divers for proper buoyancy before they get close to the reef.
  • Practice buoyancy control over sand patches before approaching a reef - test buoyancy whenever you’re using new equipment such as new wetsuits, buoyancy control devices, and cameras.
  • Stay more than two metres from the reef if you’re kneeling in sand patches during training sessions.
  • Train staff in environmental awareness, interpretation, rules and regulations, best practices and incident reporting.
  • Dive instructors should keep a close eye on divers.
  • Monitor the wildlife and coral cover at your dive sites and participate in reef monitoring programs such as the Sightings Network and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's coral bleaching early warning system.
  • Conduct Environmental Risk Assessments for scuba diving activities at all sites.

More detail on planning your dive program.

Instruct your clients to

  • Move slowly and deliberately in the water, relax, take their time and avoid rapid changes in direction.
  • Avoid making sudden or loud noises underwater.
  • Avoid leaning on, holding onto, or touching any part of the Reef. This needs to be especially emphasised for clients taking underwater photographs.
  • Avoid touching the walls of semi-confined areas (for example, small swim throughs or overhangs) – never squeeze through a small area.
  • Avoid kicking up and disturbing the sand, if they’re over a sandy area.
  • Avoid touching any animals or plants.
  • Avoid feeding fish.
  • Stay more than one metre away from giant clams.
  • Keep clear of free-swimming animals (such as turtles, whales, and sea snakes). In particular, they should not chase, ride, grab or block the path of these animals.
  • Consider not wearing gloves (unless required for safety reasons) as they are less likely to touch the coral.
  • Avoid collecting any shells, coral or ‘souvenirs’.
  • Avoid relocating any marine life, particularly when taking photos and filming.
  • Collect all litter from the Marine Park, even that which isn’t theirs.

Marine Parks Legal Requirements

  • You must not damage, collect or otherwise ‘take’ or 'possess' coral, including dead coral, and 'take' protected shell species (that is giant triton shell, helmet shell, giant clam) in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park unless you have a Marine Parks permit.
    Note: ‘Take’ includes removing, gathering, killing or interfering with, or attempting to take. 'Possess' means to have custody or control of. There may be special arrangements for Traditional Owners.
  • You must not approach closer than 30 metres to a whale or dolphin if you are in the water. If a whale or dolphin approaches you while you are in the water, move slowly away, do not touch or swim towards it.
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