Managing activities and use

Image of bow, blue ship, Great Barrier Reef, Cairns. Image credit Rorem

The Reef supports significant commercial industries, especially commercial marine tourism and fisheries

The Great Barrier Reef has long been an important resource and a valued place for people to visit, share and enjoy.

Traditional Owners have a special relationship with the Reef that goes back thousands of years. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has also been a multiple-use area that has provided protection, ecologically sustainable use, understanding and enjoyment to local communities, industries and visitors for more than 40 years.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority considers environmental, economic and social benefits, as well as impacts, when managing these activities and pursuing the best outcomes for both the Great Barrier Reef and the community.

The Reef supports significant commercial industries, especially commercial marine tourism and fisheries, and supports employment equal to over 54,000 full-time positions.

Shipping activity throughout the Great Barrier Reef is also a vital link in the production chain for many industries and services regional centres. Ports are important infrastructure for this shipping industry.

Oil drilling, mining and exploration have been prohibited in the Great Barrier Reef Region since proclamation of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act in 1975.

Importantly, use of the Great Barrier Reef Region goes well beyond commercial activities.

It is central to the culture of Traditional Owners, a major recreational area, a place of significant historic heritage value, an internationally important scientific resource and an important area for Defence training.

The Great Barrier Reef is valued by millions of people in Australia and around the world simply because it exists, even if they may never have the opportunity to visit it or derive an income from it.

Recreation on the Great Barrier Reef

Recreation is one of the major uses of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It is woven into the social fabric of coastal communities all along the Queensland coast and generates significant regional economic value.

The Great Barrier Reef attracts over 14 million recreational visits a year, mainly to boat, fish, sail, dive, snorkel and swim. Recreation in the Marine Park is mostly nature-based and relies on a healthy ecosystem.

If you want to visit the Great Barrier Reef, we encourage you plan your visit beforehand and follow Responsible Reef Practices while you are there.

The Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2009 found the Great Barrier Reef supports a wide variety of recreational activities and the impacts of recreation are mainly localised in inshore areas around major population centres. It also found visitors to the Great Barrier Reef are consistently very happy with their visit and would recommend the experience.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) is one of a number of managing agencies with responsibilities for managing recreation in the Great Barrier Reef. The GBRMPA employs a range of management tools, from regulation and site planning to partnership programs and education. All are supported by risk-based compliance and enforcement.

The Recreation Management Strategy for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park provides an overarching framework for managing recreation by the GBRMPA. It facilitates more coordinated management and sets out in the public arena the management approach of the GBRMPA.

The risk-based strategy focuses on: