Advice on research permits
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) recognises the important role that research plays in contributing to our understanding of the Great Barrier Reef. Scientific research provides us with a scientific basis for management decisions, which helps us in protecting the environment and biodiversity and heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
Research activities that require a permit in the Marine Park may also require a similar permit under Queensland Marine Parks legislation.
We work with the relevant Queensland agency, the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, to assess and issue joint permits where necessary. It should be noted that Queensland legislation may require a permit where we do not.
Notice about coral bleaching
The Great Barrier Reef is experiencing severe levels of coral bleaching in the Far Northern Management Area.
We would encourage stakeholders, including researchers, community members and the tourism industry, to help minimise additional impacts to the Reef during this time.
This includes asking current research programs to voluntarily limit collection of coral from this management area.
Our preference is that no coral collecting for research purposes occurs in this area while bleaching is underway, unless it is directly related to better understanding mass bleaching events and/or coral recovery.
The agency assesses more than 400 permit applications for new activities each year. It also manages more than 2300 permissions across some 1300 permits.
In 2016, we are continuing to see an increase in the number of permit applications for research activities.
All level 1 (low-risk activities) applications will continue to have an assessment timeframe of 16 weeks.
Please note assessments for other activities may take longer, as we are seeing an increase in applications for level 2 (medium risk) activities.
Under the Native Title Act, we must also provide a 30-day notification period to native title holders or claimants.If applying for a continuation of your existing permit before it expires, you can continue to operate under the old permit until a decision is made on your new application.
Requirements of researchers under the Zoning Plan
Our managing scientific research in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park policy underpins research under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003.
There may not be a need for individual researchers to obtain Great Barrier Reef Marine Park permissions if they are undertaking limited impact research and their parent organisations are accredited educational or research institutions.
Organisations wishing to receive accreditation have to meet specific performance and reporting criteria.
Research that requires a permit
Research proposals that satisfy any of the following require a permit:
- Occurs in the Preservation (Pink) Zone or the Commonwealth Island Zone or is otherwise indicated in Table 1
- Uses or involves equipment not listed as ‘minor research aids’ (Table 2)
- Samples numbers for particular species greater than those listed in the limited research sampling tables, or which exceeds any limits imposed under Queensland Fisheries legislation (for example plants)
- Which involves any organism listed in Part 1 of Table 19-1
- The manner of take is not by hand or a hand-held implement and does not involve the use of a minor research aid
- Is to be conducted by an educational or research institution not accredited by GBRMPA.
Use of unmanned aircraft for research
An information sheet is available on requirements for the use of unmanned aircraft for filming and research purposes.
In order to apply for a permit please read the research permit information and fill out a research permit application form.
Table 1 Research permit requirements for each zone
Marine National Park
|Limited impact research (non-extractive) +||No permit required||No permit required||No permit required||No permit required*||Permit required||No permit required||No permit required||Permit required|
|Limited impact research (extractive) +||No permit required||No permit required||No permit required||No permit required*||Permit required||Permit required||Permit required||Permit required|
|All other research||Permit required||Permit required||Permit required||Permit required||Permit required||Permit required||Permit required||Permit required|
*If an approved environmental management plan is in place, ‘as of right’ research must be conducted in accordance with that plan.
+ only if conducted by an accredited educational of research institution, otherwise a permit is required.
Commonwealth Islands include:
|Kent Island in the Barnard Island Group||Hannah Island|
|Coppersmith Island (Rock)||Pipon Islands|
|Albany Rock||Bailey Islet|
|Lady Elliot Island||Clerke Island|
|Pine Island||Coquet Island|
|Low Isles||Eshelby Island|
|North Reef Island||Hannibal Island|
|Russell Island||High Peak Island|
|Rocky Island||South Brook Island|
|Dent Island (note only sections of this island are owned by the Commonwealth – Lot 1,2,3 and 4)||South Brook Island (note only sections of this island are owned by the Commonwealth – Lot 3)|
What is limited impact research?
A permit is not required in some zones if it falls under limited impact research and the researcher is associated with an educational or research institution accredited by GBRMPA. There are specific limits on the type of species and the number of those species that you can collect under limited impact extractive research (see Table 2).
There are six different extractive limited impact collection categories:
Table 2 Summary table of limited impact collection limits based on the species tables in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 1983
|Category||Table number in Regulations||Annual limit per research project||Per location/site|
|1||19-1 (part 2)||20||5|
|2||19-1 (part 3)||50, and none longer than 1000mm||10|
|3||19-1 (part 4)||50||10|
|4||19-1 (part 5)||500||100|
|5 (plant species)||19-2||No more than the number of specimens permitted by Queensland Fisheries legislation.||No more than the number of specimens permitted by Queensland Fisheries legislation.|
|6||In the case of an animal species other than a species mentioned or referred to in the limited impact collection limit tables, no more than 200 specimens in total and no more than 50 specimens per location are to be taken or collected per research project per calendar year.|
NOTE: For the purposes of limited impact research a location is defined as a discrete, identified reef, or a continuous non-reef area of up to 10 square kilometres. Site means an area of 3,000 square meters within a location.
Limited impact research can be of two types; non-extractive and extractive. In general, the major differences between extractive and non-extractive limited impact research are the following (assuming that the research is conducted in accordance with the accreditation and an Environmental Management Plan, where required):
The taking of an animal, plant or marine product by limited research sampling; or
Installation and operation of minor research aids (see Table 3) (that do not pose a threat to safety or navigation and are installed and used in accordance with the limitations set out in the minor research aids list below)
|No extraction of any animal, plant or marine products|
Includes visual surveys (except of cetaceans which requires a permit)
Includes social research that does not involve the conduct of archaeological excavations
Limited impact research sampling:
- The taking is done by hand or by the use of a hand-held implement that is not motorised nor pneumatically nor hydraulically operated or
- By the use of a minor research aid (see Table 3)
- Explosives or chemicals are not to be used
- In the case of an animal species mentioned in the limited impact research collection tables in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations there are set amounts which can be collected per location and in total per research project per calendar year
- In the case of an animal species mentioned or referred to in Part 1 of Table 19-1, no specimens are to be taken or collected
- In the case of a plant species referred to in the limited impact research collection tables, no more than the number of specimens permitted by Queensland Fisheries legislation
- No more than 20 litres of wet sediment is taken or collected per research project per calendar year
- No more than 100 litres of seawater is taken or collected per research project per calendar year
- The relevant laws of the Commonwealth and Queensland must be complied with.
Table 3 A list of minor research aids which can be used under limited impact research and a limit on the installation of minor research aids
|Minor research aids||Limits on the installation and/or use of minor research aids|
|Apparatus and equipment authorised under Queensland Fisheries legislation for recreational use||Limits set out under Queensland Fisheries legislation for recreational use|
|Fish tags||No limit|
Stakes less than 12mm in diameter
|Data loggers for attachment to marker buoys, bolts or dive weights||No limit|
|Non-fixed plankton nets||No limit|
|Water sampling devices that are not motorised nor pneumatically nor hydraulically operated||No limit|
|Sediment sampling devices that are not motorised nor pneumatically nor hydraulically operated||No limit|
Sub-surface marker buoys less than 100mm in diameter
No more than 20 sub-surface marker buoys may be used per research project per location
Surface marker buoys less than 200mm in diameter
|Bolts or dive weights for attachment to data loggers||No limit|
|Non-fixed transect tapes and quadrats||No limit, but must be attended at all times.|
Umbrella and institutional permits
We will further streamline the research permits process by considering the granting of institutional or umbrella permits.
Such permits may improve flexibility for the conduct of ecologically sustainable research. This will reduce the number of individual research permits required and increase the flexibility for research activities to be conducted at short notice where the opportunity arises or allow for changes to the species collected due to local abundances at particular locations.
These permits will be designed to cover the range of activities undertaken by a research institution, for example a university (institutional permits), or research programs led by a senior researcher (umbrella permits).
A few of these permits have already been issued and are being audited/reviewed by GBRMPA. Where possible, the activities of students (particularly honours students) should be covered under a permit held by their supervisor or host institution, or their research must satisfy the ‘as of right’ research requirements under the Zoning Plan and associated regulations.
Applying for umbrella or institutional permits can be done on the research permit application form.
Table 19-1 Animal species limited by number for limited research sampling (based on the species table in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 1983)
|Research on any of these species automatically requires a permit|
|1||Class Mammalia (all species)||Mammals|
|2||Class Aves (all species)||Birds|
|3||Class Reptilia (all species)||Reptiles|
|4||Class Amphibia (all species)||Amphibians|
|5||Family Syngnathidae (all species)||Seahorses, seadragons, pipefish|
|6||Family Solenostomidae (all species)||Ghost pipefish|
|7||Cheilinus undulatus||Humphead Maroi wrasse|
|8||Coris aygula||Clown coris|
|9||Bolbometopon muricatum||Humphead parrotfish|
|10||Chlorurus microrhinos||Steephead parrotfish|
|11||Cetoscarus bicolor||Bicolour parrotfish|
|12||Scarus rubroviolaceus||Ember parrotfish|
|13||Family Pristidae (all species)||Sawfish|
|14||Cromileptes altivelis||Barramundi cod|
|15||Epinephelus lanceolatus||Queensland grouper|
|16||Epinephelus tukula||Potato cod|
|17||Halophryne queenslandiae||Sculptured frogfish|
|18||Ogilbyina novaehollandiae||Multicolour dottyback|
|19||Family Istiophoridae (all species)||Marlin|
|21||Carcharias taurus||Grey nurse shark|
|22||Rhincodon typus||Whale shark|
|23||Carcharias carcharias||Great white shark|
|24||Family Palinuridae (all species)||Rock lobster|
|25||Holothuria nobilis (reclassified as Holothuria whitmaei)||Black teatfish|
|26||Holothuria fuscogilva||White teatfish|
|27||Family Tridacnidae (all species)||Giant clams|
|28||Melo amphora||Baler shell|
|30||Cassis cornuta||Helmet shell|
|31||Pinctada maxima, P. margaritifera||Pearl oyster|
|32||Family Muricidae (all species)||Muricids|
|33||Class Anthozoa (all species)||All corals (hard, soft and black), anemones, zooanthids, seafans, corallimorpharians|
Limited impact research on these species is limited to 20 specimens of each species in total and no more than 5 of each species per location to be taken per project per calendar year
|34||Order Octopoda (all species)||Octopus|
|35||Brachaelurus colcloughi||Colclough's shark|
|36||Pseudocarcharias kamoharai||Crocodile shark|
|37||Isurus oxyrinchus||Shortfin mako|
|38||Hypogaleus hyagaensis||Blacktip topeshark|
|39||Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos||Grey reef shark|
|40||Carcharias brevipinna||Spinner shark|
|41||Carcharias falciformis||Silky shark|
|42||Carcharias leucas||Bull shark|
|43||Galeocerdo cuvier||Tiger shark|
|44||Triaenodon obesus||Whitetip reef shark|
|45||Sphyrna lewini||Scalloped hammerhead|
|46||Sphyrna mokarran||Great hammerhead|
|47||Rhynchobatus djiddensis||Whitespot giant guitarfish|
|48||Taeniura lymna||Bluespotted ribbontail ray|
|49||Aetobatus narinari||Spotted eagle ray|
|50||Manta birostris||Manta ray|
|51||Dasyatis fluviorum||Estuary stingray|
|52||Urogymnus asperrimus||Porcupine ray|
|53||Carcharhinus plumbeus||Sandbar shark|
|54||Carcharhinus obscurus||Black whaler|
|55||Orectolobus ornatus||Banded wobbegong|
|56||Carcharhinus limbatus||Blacktip shark|
|57||Centrophorus granulosus||Gulper shark|
|58||Dalatias licha||Black shark|
Limited impact research on these species is limited to 50 specimens of each species in total and no more than 10 of each species per site to be taken per project per calendar year, none longer than 1000 mm
|59||Genus Epinephelus (all species except E. lanceolatus and E. tukula)|
Cods and groupers, except Queensland grouper and potato cod
Limited impact research on these species is limited to 50 specimens of each species in total and no more than 10 of each species per site to be taken per project per calendar year
|60||Genus Bodianus (all species)||Hogfish|
|61||Cheilinus fasciatus||Redbreasted Maori wrasse|
|62||Cheilinus trilobatus||Tripletail Maori wrasse|
|63||Choerodon anchorago||Anchor tuskfish|
|64||Choerodon cephalotes||Purple tuskfish|
|65||Choerodon cyanodus||Blue tuskfish|
|66||Choerodon schoenleinii||Blackspot tuskfish|
|67||Choerodon venustus||Venus tuskfish|
Family Scaridae (all species except Bolbometopon muricatum, Chlorurus microrhinos, Cetoscarus bicolor and Scarus rubroviolaceus)
Parrotfish, all species except humphead parrotfish, steephead parrotfish, bicolour parrotfish and ember parrotfish
|69||Family Serranidae (all species except Cromileptes altivelis and all those of the genus Epinephelus)||(Exceptions: Barramundi cod and groupers)|
|70||Gnathodentex aureolineatus||Gold-lined sea bream|
|71||Genus Gymnocranius (all species)||Sea bream|
|72||Lethrinus atkinsoni||Yellow-tailed emperor|
|73||Lethrinus erythracanthus||Yellow-spotted emperor|
|75||Lethrinus harak||Thumbprint emperor|
|76||Lethrinus lentjan||Pink-eared emperor|
|77||Lethrinus miniatus||Sweetlip emperor (Red-throat emperor)|
|78||Lethrinus nebulosus||Spangled emperor|
|79||Lethrinus obsoletus||Orange-striped emperor|
|80||Lethrinus olivaceus||Long-nose emperor|
|81||Lethrinus ornatus||Yellow-striped emperor|
|82||Lethrinus rubrioperculatus||Red-eared emperor|
|83||Lethrinus xanthochilus||Yellowlip emperor|
|84||Lethrinus variegates||Variegated emperor|
|85||Monotaxis grandoculis||Bigeye bream|
|86||Aphareus furca||Small-toothed jobfish|
|87||Etelis carbunculus||Ruby snapper|
|88||Etelis coruscans||Flame snapper|
|89||Lutjanus adetii||Hussar (Pink hussar)|
|90||Lutjanus bitueniatus||Indonesian snapper|
|91||Lutjanus bohar||Red bass|
|92||Lutjanus boutton||Paleface snapper|
|93||Lutjanus carponotatus||Spanish flag (Stripey)|
|94||Lutjanus erythropterus||Crimson seaperch (Small-mouth nannygai)|
|95||Lutjanus malabaricus||Saddletail seaperch (Large-mouth nannygai)|
|96||Lutjanus fulviflamma||Black-spot snapper|
|97||Lutjanus fulvus||Yellow-margined seaperch|
|99||Lutjanus kasmira||Bluestripe seaperch|
|100||Lutjanus lemniscatus||Dark-tailed seaperch|
|101||Lutjanus lutjanus||Bigeye seaperch|
|102||Lutjanus monostigma||Onespot seaperch|
|103||Lutjanus quinquelineatus||Five-lined seaperch|
|104||Lutjanus rivulatus||Maori seaperch|
|105||Lutjanus russelli||Moses perch|
|106||Lutjanus sebae||Red emperor|
|Brownstripe seaperch (Brown hussar)|
|108||Macolor macularis||Midnight seaperch|
|109||Macolor niger||Black and white seaperch|
|111||Symphorichthys spilurus||Sailfin snapper|
|113||Pristipomoides filamentosus, P. sieboldi||Rosy jobfish|
|114||Pristipomoides multidens, P. typus||Gold band snapper|
|115||Aprion virescens||Green jobfish|
|116||Glaucosoma scaplare||Pearl perch|
|117||Atractoscion aequidens||Teraglin jew|
|118||Protonibea diacanthus||Black jewfish|
|120||Scomberomorus munroi||Spotted mackerel|
|121||Platycephalus fuscus||Dusky (mud) flathead|
|122||Family Antenariidae (all species except Halophryne queenslandiae)||Anglerfishes and frogfishes, except sculptured frogfish|
|123||Family Aulostomidae (all species)||Trumpetfish|
|124||Family Balistidae (all species)||Triggerfish|
|125||Family Muraenidae (all species)||Moray eels|
|126||Family Ophichthidae (all species)||Snake eels|
|127||Family Congridae (all species)||Conger eels|
|128||Family Fistulariidae (all species)||Flutemouths|
|129||Family Ostraciidae (all species)||Boxfish|
|130||Phylum Echinodermata (all species except Holothuria nobilis and H. fuscogilva)||Echinoderms, all species except black teatfish and white teatfish|
|131||Ranina ranina||Spanner crab|
|132||Phylum Mollusca (all species except: all those of the order Octopoda and the family Tridacnidae; Melo amphora, Charonia tritonis, Cassis cornuta, Pinctada maxima and P. margaritifera; and all those of the family Muricidae)||All species of molluscs except octopus, giant clams, baler shell, triton, helmet shell, pearl oysters and muricids|
Limited impact research on these species is limited to 500 specimens of each species in total and no more than 100 of each species per location to be taken per project per calendar year
|133||Family Atherinidae (all species)||Hardyheads|
|134||Family Blenniidae (all species)||Blennies|
|135||Family Clupeidae (all species)||Herring|
|136||Family Engraulidae (all species)||Anchovies|
|137||Family Gobiidae (all species)||Gobies|
|138||Family Pomacentridae (all species)||Damselfish|
|139||Family Siganidae (all species)||Rabbitfish|
|140||Family Synodontidae (all species)||Lizardfish|
|141||Family Tripterygiidae (all species)||Triplefins|
Table 19-2 Plant species limited by number for limited research sampling (based on the species table in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 1983)
|1||Family Rhizophoraceae (all species)||Mangroves|
|2||Division Magnoliophyta (all species)||Seagrass|
|3||Kingdom Protista (all species)||Algae|