Filming and photography guidelines

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is one of the world's natural wonders and has been featured in numerous documentaries, films and photographic works.

Under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003, photography, filming and/or sound recording on or under the water is allowed without a permit in most areas of the Marine Park if it is done in a way that has, or is likely to have, negligible impact on the Marine Park.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (the Authority) has developed guidelines to explain what types of recording equipment and methods are considered to cause negligible impacts on the values of the Marine Park. These are referred to as ‘low impact recording’.

Some of the principles of low impact recording include:

  • General:
    • The recording activity does not restrict public access or public use of a location.
    • The recording is not taking place in a highly protected area (see below for further information).
    • Non-living materials (sand, rocks, etc.) are not intentionally moved or manipulated beyond what is likely to be naturally restored within 24 hours.
  • Animals and Plants:
    • Biological materials (including plants and animals) cannot be introduced to the Marine Parks.
    • Plants or animals are not taken, chased, touched, handled, manipulated, fed, attracted with food or otherwise disturbed.
    • Approach distances for cetaceans (dolphins and whales) comply with Part 9 of the Regulations.
    • When recording nesting marine turtles and hatchlings - the recording does not involve:
      • the use of a light;
      • approaching turtles from the front (direct line-of-sight vision of animal);
      • Remotely Operated Vehicles must weigh less than 5 kg total weight (including any attachments) for Remotely Piloted Aircraft or less than 25 kg for surface/submarine vehicles;
      • Remotely Piloted Aircraft (drones) are not operated within aircraft exclusion areas – including sensitive seabird nesting or roosting islands or cays. (see Location-specific assessment guidelines). Some commonly visited aircraft exclusion areas are Heron Island Reef and Low Isles locality.
      • Remotely Operated Vehicles must abide by approach distances to sensitive species in the Recording Guidelines and Part 9 of the Regulations (see whales and dolphins below); and
      • Autonomous vehicles are not used.
  • For further information and to determine if a permit is required, you should refer to our photography, filming and sound recording guidelines. These filming guidelines apply to Commonwealth waters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Activities within the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park (Queensland), e.g. intertidal areas, beaches and rivers may require a state-only permission.

    Please note that any vessel or aircraft chartered for the purposes of the filming program must have appropriate Marine Parks charter permission to access the proposed locations.

Further information

If you have any questions please contact the Permits Hotline on 07 4750 0860 (between 9am and 2pm, Monday, Wednesday and Friday) or the general Media team on 07 4750 0846.