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. 

Assessment timeframes

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.

View when do you need a permit flowchart

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.

Permit applications

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

Zone
 

General Use

Habitat Protection

Conservation Park

Scientific Research

Commonwealth Island

Buffer

Marine National Park

Preservation

Limited impact research (non-extractive) +No permit requiredNo permit requiredNo permit requiredNo permit required*Permit requiredNo permit requiredNo permit requiredPermit required
Limited impact research (extractive) +No permit requiredNo permit requiredNo permit requiredNo permit required*Permit requiredPermit requiredPermit requiredPermit required
All other researchPermit requiredPermit requiredPermit requiredPermit requiredPermit requiredPermit requiredPermit requiredPermit 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 GroupHannah Island
Coppersmith Island (Rock)Pipon Islands
Albany RockBailey Islet
Lady Elliot IslandClerke Island
Pine IslandCoquet Island
Low IslesEshelby Island
North Reef IslandHannibal Island
Russell IslandHigh Peak Island
Rocky IslandSouth 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)
Penrith Island 

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

CategoryTable number in RegulationsAnnual limit per research projectPer location/site
119-1 (part 2)205
219-1 (part 3)50, and none longer than 1000mm10
319-1 (part 4)5010
419-1 (part 5)500100
5 (plant species)19-2No more than the number of specimens permitted by Queensland Fisheries legislation.No more than the number of specimens permitted by Queensland Fisheries legislation.
6In 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):

ExtractiveNon-extractive

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 aidsLimits on the installation and/or use of minor research aids
Apparatus and equipment authorised under Queensland Fisheries legislation for recreational useLimits set out under Queensland Fisheries legislation for recreational use
Fish tagsNo limit

Stakes less than 12mm in diameter

  • No more than 10 stakes may be used per research project
  • A stake must protrude less than 300mm from the substratum
Data loggers for attachment to marker buoys, bolts or dive weightsNo limit
Non-fixed plankton netsNo limit
Water sampling devices that are not motorised nor pneumatically nor hydraulically operatedNo limit
Sediment sampling devices that are not motorised nor pneumatically nor hydraulically operatedNo 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

  • Sub-surface marker buoys must be attached by lines to either:
  • Concrete nails driven into dead coral substrata; or
  • Inverted-U-shaped metal rods less than 6mm in diameter driven into sand

Surface marker buoys less than 200mm in diameter

  • No more than 10 surface marker buoys may be used per research project per location
  • If surface marker buoys are used a researcher associated with the research project must be present at all relevant times at the location.
  • A surface marker buoy must be attached by lines to either:
  • Concrete nails driven into dead coral substrata; or
  • Inverted-U-shaped metal rods less than 6mm in diameter driven into sand.
Bolts or dive weights for attachment to data loggersNo limit
Non-fixed transect tapes and quadratsNo 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)

Part 1

Research on any of these species automatically requires a permit
SpeciesCommon name
1Class Mammalia (all species)Mammals
2Class Aves (all species)Birds
3Class Reptilia (all species)Reptiles
4Class Amphibia (all species)Amphibians
5Family Syngnathidae (all species)Seahorses, seadragons, pipefish
6Family Solenostomidae (all species)Ghost pipefish
7Cheilinus undulatusHumphead Maroi wrasse
8Coris aygulaClown coris
9Bolbometopon muricatumHumphead parrotfish
10Chlorurus microrhinosSteephead parrotfish
11Cetoscarus bicolorBicolour parrotfish
12Scarus rubroviolaceusEmber parrotfish
13Family Pristidae (all species)Sawfish
14Cromileptes altivelisBarramundi cod
15Epinephelus lanceolatusQueensland grouper
16Epinephelus tukulaPotato cod
17Halophryne queenslandiaeSculptured frogfish
18Ogilbyina novaehollandiaeMulticolour dottyback
19Family Istiophoridae (all species)Marlin
20Xiphias gladiusSwordfish
21Carcharias taurusGrey nurse shark
22Rhincodon typusWhale shark
23Carcharias carchariasGreat white shark
24Family Palinuridae (all species)Rock lobster
25Holothuria nobilis (reclassified as Holothuria whitmaei)Black teatfish
26Holothuria fuscogilvaWhite teatfish
27Family Tridacnidae (all species)Giant clams
28Melo amphoraBaler shell
29Charonia tritonisTriton
30Cassis cornutaHelmet shell
31Pinctada maxima, P. margaritiferaPearl oyster
32Family Muricidae (all species)Muricids
33Class Anthozoa (all species)All corals (hard, soft and black), anemones, zooanthids, seafans, corallimorpharians
Part 2

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

 
34Order Octopoda (all species)Octopus
35Brachaelurus colcloughiColclough's shark
36Pseudocarcharias kamoharaiCrocodile shark
37Isurus oxyrinchusShortfin mako
38Hypogaleus hyagaensisBlacktip topeshark
39Carcharhinus amblyrhynchosGrey reef shark
40Carcharias brevipinnaSpinner shark
41Carcharias falciformisSilky shark
42Carcharias leucasBull shark
43Galeocerdo cuvierTiger shark
44Triaenodon obesusWhitetip reef shark
45Sphyrna lewiniScalloped hammerhead
46Sphyrna mokarranGreat hammerhead
47Rhynchobatus djiddensisWhitespot giant guitarfish
48Taeniura lymnaBluespotted ribbontail ray
49Aetobatus narinariSpotted eagle ray
50Manta birostrisManta ray
51Dasyatis fluviorumEstuary stingray
52Urogymnus asperrimusPorcupine ray
53Carcharhinus plumbeusSandbar shark
54Carcharhinus obscurusBlack whaler
55Orectolobus ornatusBanded wobbegong
56Carcharhinus limbatusBlacktip shark
57Centrophorus granulosusGulper shark
58Dalatias lichaBlack shark
Part 3

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

 
59Genus Epinephelus (all species except E. lanceolatus and E. tukula)   

Cods and groupers, except Queensland grouper and potato cod

Part 4

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

 
60Genus Bodianus (all species)Hogfish
61Cheilinus fasciatusRedbreasted Maori wrasse
62Cheilinus trilobatusTripletail Maori wrasse
63Choerodon anchoragoAnchor tuskfish
64Choerodon cephalotesPurple tuskfish
65Choerodon cyanodusBlue tuskfish
66Choerodon schoenleiniiBlackspot tuskfish
67Choerodon venustusVenus tuskfish

68

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

69Family Serranidae (all species except Cromileptes altivelis and all those of the genus Epinephelus)(Exceptions: Barramundi cod and groupers)
70Gnathodentex aureolineatusGold-lined sea bream
71Genus Gymnocranius (all species)Sea bream
72Lethrinus atkinsoniYellow-tailed emperor
73Lethrinus erythracanthusYellow-spotted emperor
74Lethrinus genivittatusLancer
75Lethrinus harakThumbprint emperor
76Lethrinus lentjanPink-eared emperor
77Lethrinus miniatusSweetlip emperor (Red-throat emperor)
78Lethrinus nebulosusSpangled emperor
79Lethrinus obsoletusOrange-striped emperor
80Lethrinus olivaceusLong-nose emperor
81Lethrinus ornatusYellow-striped emperor
82Lethrinus rubrioperculatusRed-eared emperor
83Lethrinus xanthochilusYellowlip emperor
84Lethrinus variegatesVariegated emperor
85Monotaxis grandoculisBigeye bream
86Aphareus furcaSmall-toothed jobfish
87Etelis carbunculusRuby snapper
88Etelis coruscansFlame snapper
89Lutjanus adetiiHussar (Pink hussar)
90Lutjanus bitueniatusIndonesian snapper
91Lutjanus boharRed bass
92Lutjanus bouttonPaleface snapper
93Lutjanus carponotatusSpanish flag (Stripey)
94Lutjanus erythropterusCrimson seaperch (Small-mouth nannygai)
95Lutjanus malabaricusSaddletail seaperch (Large-mouth nannygai)
96Lutjanus fulviflammaBlack-spot snapper
97Lutjanus fulvusYellow-margined seaperch
98Lutjanus gibbusPaddletail
99Lutjanus kasmiraBluestripe seaperch
100Lutjanus lemniscatusDark-tailed seaperch
101Lutjanus lutjanusBigeye seaperch
102Lutjanus monostigmaOnespot seaperch
103Lutjanus quinquelineatusFive-lined seaperch
104Lutjanus rivulatusMaori seaperch
105Lutjanus russelliMoses perch
106Lutjanus sebaeRed emperor
107

Lutjanus vitta

Brownstripe seaperch (Brown hussar)
108Macolor macularisMidnight seaperch
109Macolor nigerBlack and white seaperch
110Symphorus nematophorusChinamanfish
111Symphorichthys spilurusSailfin snapper
112Lutjanus johniiFingermark
113Pristipomoides filamentosus, P. sieboldiRosy jobfish
114Pristipomoides multidens, P. typusGold band snapper
115Aprion virescensGreen jobfish
116Glaucosoma scaplarePearl perch
117Atractoscion aequidensTeraglin jew
118Protonibea diacanthusBlack jewfish
119Agrioposphyraena barracudaBarracuda
120Scomberomorus munroiSpotted mackerel
121Platycephalus fuscusDusky (mud) flathead
122Family Antenariidae (all species except Halophryne queenslandiae)Anglerfishes and frogfishes, except sculptured frogfish
123Family Aulostomidae (all species)Trumpetfish
124Family Balistidae (all species)Triggerfish
125Family Muraenidae (all species)Moray eels
126Family Ophichthidae (all species)Snake eels
127Family Congridae (all species)Conger eels
128Family Fistulariidae (all species)Flutemouths
129Family Ostraciidae (all species)Boxfish
130Phylum Echinodermata (all species except Holothuria nobilis and H. fuscogilva)Echinoderms, all species except black teatfish and white teatfish
131Ranina raninaSpanner crab
132Phylum 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
Part 5

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

 
133Family Atherinidae (all species)Hardyheads
134Family Blenniidae (all species)Blennies
135Family Clupeidae (all species)Herring
136Family Engraulidae (all species)Anchovies
137Family Gobiidae (all species)Gobies
138Family Pomacentridae (all species)Damselfish
139Family Siganidae (all species)Rabbitfish
140Family Synodontidae (all species)Lizardfish
141Family 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)

ItemSpeciesCommon Name
1Family Rhizophoraceae (all species)Mangroves
2Division Magnoliophyta (all species)Seagrass
3Kingdom Protista (all species)Algae