Tools to manage the Reef

Protecting and managing the Great Barrier Reef is a partnership between many government agencies, Traditional Owners, stakeholders and community members, with influencing activities occurring within and adjacent to the Region.

Three main management approaches are used to manage this vast area that's bigger in size than Italy.

Additionally, there's a range of  legislation, regulations, agreements and policies to guide reef management, along with specific strategies to manage the Reef.

Environmental regulation

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan and related legislation is the foundation of our resilience-based management approach.

The zoning plan is supported by plans of management that set specific protection measures in the very popular, high-use areas — the Cairns and Whitsundays region — or areas of conservation concern like Hinchinbrook.

These include limits to the number of commercial vessels in some areas and restricting where some vessels can anchor, making it compulsory to access certain sites with a mooring, or establishing enforceable reef protection areas — all of which help limited mange to coral reefs and seagrass communities.

These measures are underpinned by a permissions system which provides for ecologically-sustainable multiple-use of the Reef.

Knowledge, integration and innovation

Effective management is based on the best available science, as well as drawing on traditional ecological knowledge and information from the wider community. We use the best available information to inform our management.

Our Reef Integrated Monitoring and Reporting Program underpins the Reef 2050 Plan's adaptive management approach by evaluating whether actions are on track to achieve targets set for protecting the Reef. It covers all aspects of the Reef's environment, including the biophysical attributes, heritage, social, economic and cultural values.

Our Marine Monitoring Program reports annually on water quality, inshore seagrass and coral reefs, while our Eye on the Reef monitoring and assessment program enables citizen science to help inform management by collecting valuable information abut reef health, marine animals and incidents.

For many years we've supported crown-of-thorn starfish control to protect coral cover. This out-breaking pest species in an immediate but controllable risk to the Reef.

Engagement and stewardship

With an area spanning 14 degrees of latitude to manage, working with others is a critical part of protecting the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.

We work with Traditional Owners and acknowledge their continued social, cultural, economic and spiritual connections to the Reef through Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreements. These agreements describe how each Traditional Owner group will manage their marine resources and their roles in compliance activities and monitoring the health of species and habitats.

We also recognise best practice by industry and community leaders who demonstrate the best possible standard of environmental sustainability and protection.