Protected species

Image of Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) Great Barrier Reef, QLD, Australia. Image credit Jan-Dirk Hansen

Humpback whale

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority works closely with international, national, state and local agencies in the conservation and protection of biodiversity.

A protected species is a plant or animal that is protected by law and needs special management. Species may be protected at an international, national, state or local level:

In addition, protected species in the Great Barrier Reef are classified as either threatened, iconic or at risk:

  1. A protected species is classified as 'threatened' if its population has declined within and adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef
  2. A protected species is classified as 'iconic' if it is one of Australia’s most well-known plants or animals and requires special management in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
  3. A protected species is classified as 'at risk' if it faces pressure from human-related activities within and adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef.
Image of Dugong mother and calf. Image credit Chris Jones

Dugong mother and calf

The list of protected species for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park includes:

  • Some shells - helmet shells, triton shells, tridacnid clams
  • Some fish - seahorses, pipefish, sea dragons, potato cod, Queensland grouper, barramundi cod, Maori wrasse, all groupers (Epinephelus) more than 100 cm
  • Some sharks - whale shark, grey nurse shark, great white shark, freshwater and green sawfish
  • Sea snakes
  • Crocodiles
  • Marine turtles
  • Birds
  • Seals
  • Whales and dolphins
  • Dugong

There is a list of protected species for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003, you need the permission of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA)  to intentionally take any of these species.

Protected species are:

The following activity matrix gives an indication of:

  1. The protected species and types of activities for which GBRMPA anticipates receiving applications
  2. Whether GBRMPA is likely to grant its permission
  3. The assessment guidelines used by GBMRPA to make decisions on such applications.

Protected species activity matrix

 in situ activities¹,² Ñ#
(e.g. filming)
Filming removal³Public display for educ-
ation
Tourism related (e.g. touch and tell, tank)*Research**Brood-
stock
collection for aquaculture
Helmet shellsLLLLLU
Triton shellsLLLLLU
Giant clamLLLDead only (for shell display)LL
Seahorses, pipefish, sea dragonsLLLULL
Potato codLULULU
Queensland grouperLULULU
Cods and groupers (Epinephelus) >100cmLULULU
Barramundi codLULULL
Maori wrasseLULULU
Freshwater sawfishLUUULU
Whale sharkLUUULU
Grey nurse sharkLUUULU
Great white sharkLUUULU
Sea snakesLLLULU
CrocodilesLUUULU
Flatback turtleLUUULU
Green turtleLUUULU
Hawksbill turtleLUUULU
Leatherback turtleLUUULU
Loggerhead turtleLUUULU
Olive ridley turtleLUUULU
BirdsLUUULU
SealsLUUULU
DugongLUUULU
Whales and dolphinsLUUULU

L = ‘Likely’ means GBRMPA may grant a permission for the take of the protected species for the particular activity noted after assessment that is in accordance with the Regulations, this policy and the associated guidelines, and appropriate conditions to manage the activity are developed.

U = ‘Unlikely’ means GBRMPA is unlikely to grant a permission for the take of the protected species, however exceptional circumstances may be considered.

¹ Permission only required if activity constitutes ‘take’ as defined in the Zoning Plan. 

² Research requires a permission for this activity regardless of whether take occurs

³ Temporary removal or holding, one-off events.

* Does not include fish feeding activities.

** Non-lethal research only, lethal research would require substantial justification.

GBRMPA's approach is outlined in the policy on managing activities that include the direct take of a protected species from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

If you want to take a protected species, conduct an activity that is not covered by the matrix, or find out how to obtain a GBRMPA permit, including permit application forms, please contact GBRMPA on 1800 990 177 or email assessments@gbrmpa.gov.au.