Threats to the Reef
- Climate change
- Coastal development
- Land-based run-off
- Extreme weather
- Remaining impacts from fishing
- Marine debris
Strategies to manage the Reef
- Reef 2050 Plan
- Reef 2050 Integrated Monitoring and Reporting Program
- Reef Blueprint
- Strategic assessment and 25-year management plan
- Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report
- Science for management
- Visitor contributions to the Reef
Managing activities and use
- Managing Commonwealth Islands
- Ports along the Great Barrier Reef
- Tourism on the Great Barrier Reef
- Fisheries in the Marine Park
- East coast otter trawl fishery
- East coast reef line fishery
- East coast inshore finfish
- East coast dive based
- Fisheries management
- Submission to proposed fisheries reforms and management review discussion papers May 2018
- Recreation on the Great Barrier Reef
- Tools to manage the Reef
Our programs and projects
- Field Management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
- Eye on the Reef
- Reef Guardians
- Reef Guardian Schools
- Reef Guardian Councils
- Reef Guardian Fishers
- Reef Guardian Farmers and Graziers
- Marine Monitoring Program
- Douglas Shoal environmental remediation project
- Crown-of-thorns starfish control
- International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI)
- Overview of the Representative Areas Program
Marine debris is rubbish or litter that finds its way into the marine environment. According to the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2014, marine debris within the Region includes plastic bags, discarded fishing gear, plastic and glass bottles, rubber thongs, aerosols and drink cans.
Between 2008 and March 2014, volunteers from the Australian Marine Debris Initiative collected about 683,000 items of marine debris, weighing over 42 tonnes.
Plastic is the most common type of marine debris found on the beaches in the Great Barrier Reef, reflecting worldwide trends where plastic comprises between 50 to 90 per cent of all recorded debris.
Plastic bags and single-use plastic bottles, along with cigarette butts, are the three major challenges for the Reef’s marine environment.
Impacts on marine life and ecosystem
Marine debris comes from both land and sea-based sources and can travel immense distances. It can pose a navigation hazard and has the potential to transport chemical contaminants and invasive species.
It can also smother coral, entangle wildlife or be ingested. This not only causes death or injury for wildlife, it also negatively affects tourism and poses a threat to human health.
Marine debris from the catchment generally appears to accumulate and remain confined within the lagoon system of the Reef but with a northward movement.
At the southern end of the Reef, debris appears to be more ocean-sourced. Large deposits of debris are accumulating in the northern-most parts of the Reef, which are of international origin.
We’re working with communities and industries to minimise the source and occurrence of marine debris in the Great Barrier Reef.
With support through the Australian Government’s Reef Trust, we have already seen on-ground community clean-ups, targeted education and awareness-raising. This initiative forms one of the four key projects to be delivered under the Australian Government’s Dugong and Turtle Projection Plan.