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The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's annual reports highlight the agency’s work and achievements over the reporting period.

This financial year was a significant time for the Reef and for the Authority, managing a Reef under pressure, working with stakeholders severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and adjusting programs accordingly.

Annual Report 2020-21

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's Annual Report 2020-21 highlights the agency’s work and achievements for the year, reported against the purposes and performance criteria in the Authority's Corporate Plan 2020-21 and Portfolio Budget Statements 2020–21.

The Authority is responsible for managing one of the world’s premier natural resources, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The Authority’s work is driven by the vision of a healthy Great Barrier Reef for future generations.

  • The report meets the requirements for annual reports outlined by the Department of Finance in its Resource Management Guide No. 135: Annual reports for non-corporate Commonwealth entities.

  • Part 1: Introduction - Outlines the purpose and structure of the report and presents the Chief Executive Officer’s (CEO’s) review of the Authority’s activities and performance for the 2020–21 reporting period.

  • Part 2: Overview - Provides corporate background to the Authority, including its role and functions, and a summary of financial performance and staff overview.

  • Part 3: Performance - Details the actions taken by the Authority in 2020–21 to meet its stated purpose of the long-term protection, ecologically sustainable use, understanding and enjoyment of the Great Barrier Reef for all Australians and the international community through the care and development of the Marine Park, and reporting against key performance indicators outlined in the Authority’s performance documents.

  • Part 4: Management and Accountability - Covers the delivery of the management framework that supports the effective functioning of the Authority, including corporate governance, statutory and advisory committees, management and training, work health and safety, asset management, corporate services and management of consultants.

  • Part 5: Finances - Delivers an analysis of financial performance and a detailed financial statement.

  • Part 6: Appendices - Comprises the Authority’s resource statement; staffing overview; information on advertising and marketing, freedom of information (FOI) and ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance; a list of staff papers and presentations; Queensland Government financials and correction of a material error in the previous annual report.

  • Part 7: Acronyms and Index - Includes a list of acronyms, a glossary, a list of requirements and an alphabetical index.

Reef HQ Aquarium closed in February 2021 to commence a major refurbishment of the 33 year-old facility.

The early works program encompassed a number of projects with the primary focus on resolving critical safety issues.

Other projects were included within the scope due to the requirement to relocate and upgrade integrated systems at the same time.

Planning of the early works began in 2020 and needed to be complete before the site hand over to the Principal Contractor.

The delivery was complex with many projects interlinked, and timeframes reliant on specific projects to be completed prior to delivering tasks in another project area.

The early works includes 36.5% of the original project scope relating to the initial funding received in December 2019 and the additional $2.6 million received for animal life support system works. All components were delivered and completed by June 2021.

The Reef HQ Aquarium Renewal Annual Report for December 2019 - June 2021 is now available.

For the latest updates on the refurbishment head to the Reef HQ website or follow us on Facebook.

The Australian Government funded Tourism Industry Activation and Reef Protection Initiative saw 17 marine tourism operators across the length of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park undertake 692 days of reef stewardship activities, delivering 6018 hours of reef site monitoring and maintenance.

The $3.2 million initiative was part of the Government’s COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund to support regions, communities, and industries severely affected by the coronavirus crisis.

The initiative helped ensure business continuity for the tourism industry as well as conserve and protect high-value reef tourism sites. It also ensured key tourism sites were properly maintained and ready to welcome guests when COVID-19 travel restrictions ease.

These in-water activities directly supported the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Reef Blueprint, which outlines actions to support reef resilience.

  • Activities undertaken:

  • Completion of in-water Reef Health and Impact Surveys (RHIS) primarily from reef tourism sites with data collection uploaded to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Eye on the Reef system.
  • Reef intervention and conservation activities under existing Marine Park permits (e.g. coral gardening, macro-algae removal and crown-of-thorns starfish control).
  • Capture of real-time imagery of the Reef and operational activities to be used in developing education and communication materials that educate people about the beauty of the Reef and the need for its protection. This will also be used support domestic and international tourism campaigns in post COVID-19 recovery.


The Reef Authority also implemented measures to ease the financial and administrative burden on tourism operators by waiving the environmental management charge and permit application and assessment fees until June 2022.

Mandubarra Traditional Owners have formally captured the heritage, knowledge, and cultural values of their people and Sea Country. The Reef Authority has a strong partnership with Mandubarra Traditional Owners through their Traditional Use of Marine Resource Agreement.

The mapping of these cultural values can be used to inform future management of their Sea Country in north Queensland from Mourilyan Harbour near Innisfail to the southern end of Kurrimine Beach.

The Sea Country cultural values mapping project is a response to requests from Reef Traditional Owners to map and store knowledge of their heritage values and to protect Indigenous heritage through Authority processes.

Mandubarra Elders and younger people captured key information about their Sea Country detailing cultural values that they are willing to share, while also developing a plan specifically for Mandubarra Traditional Owners.

This is a way for the family group to collect and transfer Sea Country culture and knowledge guided by their Elders. They shared what is significant to them, where cultural heritage is still intact, and what species, places and customs are of importance.

The plan is only the first step.  In accordance with our jurisdiction and area of responsibilities, we will now work with Mandubarra Traditional Owners to apply this mapped information through our management programs and to support Managing Partners and Mandubarra people in their obligations and responsibilities.

Field management’s maritime incident response teams work in partnership with Traditional Owners to respond to maritime incidents on Sea Country. The Reef Authority has been providing training to assist capacity building for Indigenous Rangers in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Maritime Safety Queensland, Australian Maritime Safety Authority, Biosecurity Queensland, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

The training provides a unique opportunity for Traditional Owners to guide government bodies on how to respond to incidents using a broad range of considerations including cultural heritage. The training sessions provided a unique opportunity to cross-pollinate Traditional Knowledge of Country with western science.

More than 30 rangers took part in the training, which aimed to equip them to respond to wildlife strandings, oil spills, natural disasters and pest outbreaks, as well as brushing up on their skills in large-scale incident response in the Great Barrier Reef.

The rangers participated in practical exercises, role-plays and scenarios, and will now have the ability to apply these skills in-field. The training also covered emerging technologies in incident response, communication in a crisis scenario, and how responders can stay safe when dealing with incidents in the field.

Traditional Owners are the crucial link to reporting and responding to incidents. They can provide critical, on-ground information which may influence the response, decision making processes and highlight priority areas to protect to ensure the environment and cultural heritage values are protected.

Indigenous Rangers are often the first point of contact on the ground. Information and lessons learnt from the training will form part of the Authority’s incident management framework and will guide the Australasian inter-service incident management system.

The Reef Authority supports the need for localised Reef restoration. We are working at Green Island to build new stable areas of live coral reef habitat. The project is being conducted in collaboration with a number of stakeholders including the Gungandji Traditional Owners, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Mars Incorporated, Quicksilver Cruises, Big Cat Green Island Cruises and the Coral Nurture Program,

More than 2600 coral fragments have been attached to a web of 165 hexagonal, sand-coated frames across the seafloor. Additional coral fragments have been attached to suitable hard substrate using coral-clipsTM developed by the Coral Nurture Program.

There has been significant growth of these fragments since their installation in November 2020. Over the next few years, these structures should continue to grow and form a diverse and healthy area of live reef where previously there had been unstable dead coral rubble and bare limestone rock.

The trial at Green Island uses carefully prepared guidelines to protect the area’s ecological and social values. Initial monitoring results have been collected at six months and further monitoring will occur over the next five years. Early results indicate strong coral growth, increasing fish diversity and biomass.

This is the first work of its kind at Green Island, a popular tourist destination off Cairns. The techniques are also being trialed by Mars Sustainable Solutions at other reef locations in the Cairns.

The technology was originally designed for use on Indonesian reefs, where it was successfully used to rehabilitate more than four hectares of reef impacted by destructive fishing techniques

Coral restoration projects such as the one at Green Island are critically important to supporting resilience at a localised scale. If successful, this restoration technique could be more widely adopted where other local-scale impacts from vessel groundings, anchor damage or cyclone impacts occur.

Localised restoration can support tourist and recreational sites or areas with specific ecological values. While these are localised trials to support Reef resilience, continued action on climate change remains to be critically important in ensuring the longevity of the Reef.

The Authority, as the lead management agency for the Great Barrier Reef is concerned by all matters that have an influence on the Marine Park. There are urgent matters affecting the Reef that the Authority has a strong interest in, but which lie outside of its direct regulatory control. Position statements express the Authority’s stance on these issues and are based on the best-available science and information.

In 2020-21, the Authority released two new position statements: fishing and water quality. These are in addition to statements already in place on climate change, coastal ecosystems and marine debris. The Authority’s position statements inform key policies, positions and priorities of various organisations.

The fishing position statement acknowledges that fishing is a long-established and important activity in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. While fishing is regulated within the Marine Park, some practices continue to have an impact on the Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority seeks to ensure fishing is ecologically sustainable through an ecosystem-based approach and management actions that consider the cumulative impacts of fishing on all species and habitats in the Marine Park.

Fishing in the Marine Park provides important social, economic and cultural benefits. However, there are fishing related impacts that continue to negatively affect the Reef and its values. The Reef is under unprecedented pressure and its health and resilience is predicted to decline further. The Authority supports improved fisheries management through an ecosystem-based approach, complementary educational programs and environmental stewardship to reduce risks to the Marine Park.

The water quality position statement identifies poor water quality as a major threat to the Great Barrier Reef, particularly inshore areas. Improving the quality of water entering the Marine Park is critical and urgent. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority supports actions that reduce pollutant loads from all land-based sources.

Pollutants in land-based run-off are a major threat, particularly to coastal and inshore areas. While recognising the considerable efforts of agricultural and other land-based industries to improve water quality to date, there remains an urgent need to implement innovative and targeted actions to further improve the quality of water entering the Reef from all land-based sources. This must happen in parallel with other actions that also build Reef resilience.


Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Annual Report 2020-21

Created Thu, 2022-05-12 14:06
Updated 24 Aug 2022
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