Strategies to manage the Reef

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is Australia’s key management agency for the Great Barrier Reef, and works with government, industry and community to protect this spectacular area.

For over 40 years our work has been guided by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 and relevant legislation provides for the long-term protection and conservation of the Reef’s environment, biodiversity and heritage values.

A range of regulatory tools also enable us to manage multiple activities in the Marine Park, including our Zoning Plan, plans of management, permits and policies, as well as a range of partnerships and management arrangements.

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

Reef 2050 Plan

To achieve this protection and sustainable use, we’re 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.

The Reef 2050 Integrated Monitoring and Reporting Program is a key part of the Reef 2050 Plan, and will track our progress in achieving objectives and targets for seven themes.

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.

Our Outlook Report and strategic assessment highlight threats to the Reef and its values, helping us to understand the priority areas for management and feeding into the Reef 2050 Long-term sustainability plan.

Management plan and Reef Blueprint

Our 25-year management plan outlines our mix of on-ground work, policies, strategies and engagement, and our Reef Blueprint is designed around 10 key initiatives to deliver maximum benefits for Reef resilience. The progress report outlines the successes 12 months on from the launch of the Blueprint.

Building on existing management arrangements — such as crown-of-thorns starfish control and fishing compliance — to protect the Great Barrier Reef, this Blueprint outlines additional actions and innovative approaches the Authority will pursue with its partners to better support and protect coral reefs in the face of a changing climate.

Its explicit focus on coral reefs reflects both their critical state, and the fact that coral reefs are the cornerstones of the Reef’s broader ecological, social, economic, cultural and heritage values.

The 10 initiatives fall into four broad areas:

  • building a resilience network
  • on-ground actions
  • empowering people
  • fostering change.

By focusing our efforts on building the resilience of coral reefs, we will give the entire Great Barrier Reef ecosystem its best chance of coping with the challenges ahead.

Management tools

The Marine Park Authority uses a range of tools, including on-ground management, policies, partnerships and regulation to maintain the delicate balance between protecting and enable sustainable use.

Regulatory tools — such as our Zoning Planplans of managementpermits 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 1999Maritime Border Command provides aerial surveillance of the region; and the Australian Institute of Marine Science undertakes research.

Managing threats to the Reef

Climate change is the greatest threat to coral reefs worldwide. We are working to understand the the risks of climate change and other threats to the Reef, and helping reef communities and industries adapt to the changing environment. A resilient Reef is better able to withstand stress and cope with impacts of disturbances.

Each summer, we assess the health of reefs, as this part of the year poses a greater risk of extreme weather, particularly heat waves, cyclones and flooding. Other initiatives including the Eye on the Reef app and our Marine Monitoring Program help us keep up to date on the current conditions on the Reef.

We also support key reef education facilities to undertake extensive reviews of their energy consumption, leading to large decreases in their climate footprints:

  • The Authority's Reef HQ Aquarium has achieved a large reduction in energy use, by upgrading pump and filter systems, and becoming the first tourism attraction in Queensland to be registered as a solar power station.
  • The Lady Elliott Island resort has achieved 100 per cent carbon neutrality by upgrading its facilities and replacing diesel-run generators with solar-powered energy sources.
  • The Low Isles largely use solar power and are working towards becoming totally carbon neutral.

We’ve also collaborated with industry groups to develop a range of environmental accreditation schemes and programs that encourage and reward reef businesses for reducing their climate footprints.

Science for management

Science is central to our management and informs all our plans, reports and assessments. We use the best available knowledge from a wide range of research institutions, government agencies, universities, commercial companies and consultants, stakeholders, Traditional Owners and community members.

Visitor contributions

More than two million Reef visitors also support our management each year through an environmental management charge. We use the funds to monitor, manage and improve the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef for future generations.