Fishing is a popular recreational pastime that allows people to spend time on the water with family and friends and to get in touch with the natural world. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park offers many exciting and different fishing opportunities.

As well as observing fishing regulations, it is important that those who fish adopt responsible fishing practices while out on the water. These practices help reduce impacts on the natural environment, maintain the ecological balance of the area and minimise harm to fish.

By following these simple guidelines you are helping to ensure that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park continues to be one of the best spots on earth to fish.

Responsible Reef Practices

In general

  • Advise your clients about all fishing regulation and best practices.
  • Provide interpretation about sustainable fishing practices, species identification and measurement, protected fish species such as Maori wrasse, and barramundi cod. Explain why the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is a special place and the reasons for fishing regulations.

When fishing

  • Actively attend your fishing gear at all times while fishing.
  • Take only what you need - do not necessarily fish to the bag limit.
  • Do not use pest or non-native fish for bait. Never release introduced species into the water.
  • Do not fish where fish feeding takes place, for example as part of a tourist program.
  • Do not fish near a commercial dive site or pontoon.
  • Do not fish at known or suspected fish spawning aggregation sites.
  • Fish a safe distance from marine animals (such as dolphins, whales, turtles and dugongs) and bird roosting or nesting areas.
  • If you’re unsure of the fish identity or size, release the fish immediately.
  • Return all undersized and unwanted fish quickly to minimise injury.
  • If you’re keeping the fish, remove it from the hook or net immediately and kill it humanely.
  • Do not litter - clean up all fishing gear (such as discarded tackle and line, and bait bags) and take it back to shore to dispose of it properly.
  • After filleting fish, avoid disposing of the frames at boat ramps and popular areas.
  • Participate in fish monitoring and research programs where available.

When returning unwanted fish

  • Minimise how long the fish is out of the water - keep fish in the water as much as possible and have your equipment close at hand. Very large fish should not be removed from the water.
  • Do not leave fish on a hot, dry surface to thrash around.
  • Place fish on a wet towel and cover them, especially the gills and eyes. The fish should not dry out and direct sunlight can damage their eyes.
  • Handle fish gently – fully support its body, do not hold upright by the jaw, squeeze or kneel on the fish.
  • Use wet hands or wet cloth when handling fish to minimise damage to their protective mucous coating.
  • Remove the hook carefully and quickly using a pair of long nose pliers or a dehooker to minimise tissue tearing. If the hook is difficult to remove, cut the line instead.
  • Use barbless hooks or those that are unlikely to become hooked in the gills or gut, such as circle hooks. Use a knot-less landing net.
  • Help fish recover before their release - gently release the fish headfirst into the water.

When spearfishing

  • Be careful of other Reef users who may be in the water near you.
  • Spear only what you need - not necessarily to the bag limit.
  • Do not pursue a fish if you are unsure of its identity or size.
  • Do not take big fish merely as trophies - they are important breeding stock.
  • Always track down injured fish, do not let them swim off injured.
  • Do not attempt to spear a fish that is likely to escape injured. This includes very large or fast moving fish.


  • Please report tagged fish, suspected illegal fishing, fish kills (large numbers of dead fish) and entrapped marine animals.

Marine Parks Legal Requirements

  • You must not ‘take’ protected fish species (for example, Maori wrasse, barramundi cod) in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park unless you have a Marine Parks permit.
  • You can only 'take' or 'possess' five specimens of each restricted species at any time in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
    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 abide by the fishing requirements in the Zoning Plan:
    • General Use Zone (light blue) and Habitat Protection Zone (dark blue) – maximum of three lines/rods per person, six hooks in total
    • Conservation Park Zone (yellow) – one line/rod with one hook per person
    • Buffer Zone (olive green) – maximum three lines/rods per person, six hooks in total, trolling for pelagic species only
    • No fishing in the Scientific Research Zone (orange), Marine National Park Zone (green) or Preservation Zone (pink).
  • You must abide by the spearfishing requirements in the Zoning Plan:
    • Spearfishing is allowed in the General Use Zone (light blue), Habitat Protection Zone (dark blue) and Conservation Park Zone (yellow) but you must have a Marine Parks permit to spearfish in Public Appreciation Special Management Areas of the Conservation Park Zone
    • Spearfishing is not allowed in the Buffer Zone (olive green), Scientific Research Zone (orange), Marine National Park Zone (green) or Preservation Zone (pink).
  • You must not spearfish:
    • For sale or trade
    • With underwater breathing apparatus (other than snorkel)
    • With a power-head
    • With a firearm or light.
  • You must abide by State Fishing regulations including species allowed, size limits, bag limits, protected species, tackle restrictions, and seasonal and area closures.
  • You must not discharge fresh fish parts, unless the fish were caught in the Marine Park.
  • You must notify the Secretary of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities within seven days of becoming aware that an activity you undertook without a permit resulted in an unintentional death, injury, trading, taking, keeping or moving of a species specified in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
  • Free zoning app

    Zoning maps

    If you're heading out on the water, download and use the free zoning app so you know where you can go and what you can do.

  • Important milestone

    40 years anniversary

    We're delighted to celebrate the 40 years of the managing the Great Barrier Reef.

  • Visit the Reef

    fish on reef

    Visit our Great Barrier Reef and discover its amazing animals, plants, and habitats.

  • What you can do

    purple coral

    Everyone has a role to play in protecting our Great Barrier Reef. Find out what you can do to help protect this great Australian icon.

  • Report marine strandings


    If you see sick, dead or stranded marine animals please call RSPCA QLD 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625)

  • Climate Change and the Great Barrier Reef

    Climate Change and the Great Barrier Reef vulnerability assessment cover image

    A Vulnerability Assessment: of the issues that could have far-reaching consequences for the Great Barrier Reef.

  • Current Conditions

    Current Conditions logo promo image

    Current Conditions: Environmental and climatic forecasts for the Great Barrier Reef