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The most common types of permits issued by managing agencies are for tourism, research and education activities and structures. However, other types of activities may still require permission.

Other types of permits issued by the managing agencies are listed below. If your proposal does not fit within any of these categories, you may still require permission. We recommend contacting the Reef Authority to discuss your proposal prior to applying online or determining permission to conduct an activity is not required. 

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.

Learn more about what types of recording equipment and methods are considered to cause negligible impacts on the values of the Marine Park in our guidelines and webpage

Control of COTS and/or Drupella must be consistent with zoning plan provisions and should be consistent with management plan provisions.

The current management regime aims to control outbreaks at specific locations that are important for science or site-dedicated tourism operators.

Permission is generally not required for the take of COTS in General Use, Habitat Protection and Conservation Park Zones. If however, you are planning to take in Buffer, Scientific Research and Marine National Park Zones permission will be required. Apply for via Permits Online for a routine COTS and Drupella permission. There is no fee for these permit.

Permits for COTS and/or Drupella removal require the permit holder to supply detailed reports; and follow control methods outlined in our manual "Crown-of-thorns starfish control guidelines" and/or Drupella best management guidelines.

Crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS)

The crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) is a naturally occurring coral-eating starfish that can be found along the entire Great Barrier Reef (the Reef).

The best practice method for undertaking COTS control is to use a modified drench gun to inject the starfish, using either a single-shot method (bile salts or household vinegar) or the multi-shot sodium bisulphate method. These methods involve trained divers injecting individual starfish, with the process being harmless to other organisms. While these techniques are highly successful, they are an ongoing control process as new COTS soon re-populate the area.


Drupella removal involves the use of devices such as tongs, tweezers, forceps or suction devices. 

Barge operations extend throughout the Great Barrier Reef and allow for the building, maintenance, repair and supply of island resorts and reef structures, which allow members of the public to understand, enjoy and appreciate the values of the Great Barrier Reef. Barge operations also contribute to general research by supplying charter services to researchers and managing agencies.

A barge is defined as a flat-bottomed vessel designed to transport freight and goods over water either under its own power or when being pushed or towed. A non-self-propelled barge includes dumb barges, lighter barges, and tug-and-tow vessels.

Permission for navigating a ship is required to allow barge vessels to tow or push another vessel or vessels with a total length of tow greater than 150 metres. However, each vessel is limited to less than 50 metres in overall length.

There are two options when applying for a barge permit being Routine and Tailored.

The majority of barge operations fit under the routine barge permit, activities not covered under this approach need to apply for a tailored permit.

The following activities will be permitted on the routine barge permit:

1. Transport of freight and goods 
2. Transport of packaged fuel* but NOT including the transport or transfer of bulk fuel** 
3. Tug-and-tow

* Packaged Fuel means fuel that is carried in container(s) with a capacity less than 3,000 litres. Fuel carried in vessel cargo spaces, not including the vessel’s primary fuel tank, is considered bulk fuel.

** Bulk Fuel means any fuel carried in vessel cargo spaces and/or fuel carried in container(s) with a capacity greater than 3,000 litres and does not include the vessel's primary fuel tank.

The charter operation allows for the permit holder to conduct the following activities: 
1. Providing transport or services for non-tourists including, but not limited to: 
•    vessel support for workers, researchers or film crews
•    transport to and from worksites
•    transport and delivery of goods and equipment provided any hazardous goods are carried in limited quantities in accordance with the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code.

2. Chartering out a crewed vessel to support other permitted activities, accredited activities or management activities in the Marine Parks.

If merely transiting the Marine Park, permission is not required. 'transiting’ has the same meaning as in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 2019 (Cth) .

Application check list

To apply visit Permits Online

The managing agencies work collaboratively with other stakeholders including the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) (who are responsible for day-to-day fisheries management), the Australian Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, and commercial and recreational fishers to continuously enhance the sustainability of the fisheries, including improvements in fishing gear and methods and vessel monitoring systems.

Commercial fishing

Commercial fishing is the largest extractive activity in the Marine Parks and an important contributor to Australia’s seafood industry, with about 14, 885 tonnes (2018–19) of seafood harvested each year.

The managing agencies work with the Queensland Government who manage the sustainability of commercial fishing in the Marine Parks. The Queensland Government are responsible for:

•    Limits on the number of fishing licences
•    Spatial and seasonal closures
•    Restrictions on fishing vessel size
•    Restrictions on the length, mesh size and number of nets used
•    Limits on the number of hooks used
•    Limits on the number of traps such as crab pots and dillies used
•    Limits on fishing effort or total allowable catch
•    Size limits and restrictions on the species that may be retained.

All commercial fishing requires permission within the Marine Parks. This permission may be solely provided by DAF via a current Primary Commercial Fishing Licence or may require both DAF and the managing agencies permissions depending on the Great Barrier Reef Regulations 2019 and Great Barrier Reef Zoning Plan 2003 provisions.  Trawling does not require Marine Parks permission within the General Use Zone. Trolling, line fishing, limited spearfishing, netting, and trapping do not require a Marine Parks permit if conducted within General Use, Habitat Protection and Conservation Park Zones. There are some limitations on line, spearfishing trapping and collecting within Conservation Park Zones.  There are also restrictions within Special Management Areas and Plans of Management.

Harvest fisheries

Harvest fisheries are commercial fisheries which use mainly hand-selection methods, for example, aquarium fish, coral or tropical rock lobster. Currently all harvest fisheries require a permit from the managing agencies and the permit applicant must have the appropriate Queensland fisheries licence and relevant quota before applying.

The managing agencies may accredit a harvest fishery if the fishery has management arrangements in place under Queensland fisheries legislation that provide a basis for ecologically sustainable harvest. There are no harvest fisheries currently accredited within the Marine Parks.

Harvest fisheries are only considered for permission within General Use Zones Habitat Protection Zones. Coral and Aquarium and Worm Fisheries can be considered for permission within Conservation Park Zones. Harvest Fisheries are not permitted within the Whitsunday Planning Area, regardless of zone. Harvest Fisheries are also not permitted within Public Appreciation Special Management Areas, Marine Cultural Heritage Special Management Areas, Natural Resource (Mermaid Cove) Special Management Area, the Palm Islands Group Habitat Protection Zone (HP-18-5146) and the Great Palm Island Conservation Park Zone (CP-18-4054).

Developmental fishing activity

Any new type of commercial fishing activity that has not previously been conducted in the Marine Park will require a Marine Parks Permit for a Developmental Fishery. This is important to ensure all risks associated with the new activity have been assessed to avoid, mitigate or offset relevant impacts to allow for ecologically sustainable use. If measures cannot be implemented to reduce the risk, then the proposed activity may be refused.

A Developmental Fishery permission from the managing agencies cannot be applied for until DAF have granted a Developmental Fishery permit. Developmental Fisheries can only be considered within General Use Zones and Habitat Protection Zones.  Special Management Area and Plans of Management may also restrict the operation of a Developmental Fishery.

Charter fishing

Tourism operators wanting to offer fishing experiences will require a tourism permit issued by the managing agencies, in additional to a Queensland fisheries licence. To learn more and apply, see the Tourism and Charters permissions page.

Recreational fishing

Recreational fishing can be conducted on the Great Barrier Reef without a permit as long as it is conducted in accordance with Marine Parks Zoning and fishing regulations. It is also important to follow Responsible Reef Practices any time you are in the Marine Parks.


The permission ‘carrying out works’ includes: 
•    dredging; or
•    dumping of spoil; or
•    beach protection works; or
•    harbour works.

Information on these activities is below.

We recommend contacting the Marine Park Authority before applying for a permission to carry out works in the Marine Parks.

Dredging and spoil disposal

Dredging can be for capital projects — including new or an enlargement of navigational channels, ports, marinas or boat harbours — or for engineering purposes such as trenches for pipes and cables or the removal of unsuitable material.

Dredging can also be for maintenance to ensure safe access by maintaining the designed depth of channels, berths or other port areas.

Dredge material may be re-used at or near the dredging site or disposed of on land or at sea. 

Disposal at sea requires a permit under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 (the Sea Dumping Act).

We administer the Sea Dumping Act when disposal is proposed in the Marine Park. Disposal at sea must also be consistent with the National Assessment Guidelines for Dredging 2009 (NAGD).

Our Dredging and Disposal Policy describes the management arrangements (including International, Commonwealth and State laws) aimed to mitigate environmental impacts associated with dredging and spoil disposal in the Marine Park.

Our hydrodynamic modelling guidelines provide the specific procedures, methodologies and frameworks associated with hydrodynamic modelling and dredge plume modelling expected for dredging and disposal projects in the Marine Park.

Dredging and disposal activities may also require permission under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) (refer to the EPBC referral deemed application information sheet and Application Guidelines for further information).

Capital dredge spoil disposal – prohibited dumping and exemptions

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations (Section 104) prohibit any amount of capital dredge spoil material that is more than 15,000 cubic metres in volume, prior to its excavation, to be disposed of in the Marine Park (excluding material excavated to create a trench in which the pipe, cable or tube is laid and then used to backfill the trench).

Beach protection works

Beach protection works primarily occur in Queensland jurisdiction and therefore only requires permission from the Department of Environment, Science and Innovation.

If, however, the beach protection works occurs in both the State and Commonwealth Martine Park or on Commonwealth Islands then a Marine Parks permission is required.

The material extracted for the Marine Parks during a capital or maintenance dredge campaign may be beneficially reused for beach protection works if deemed suitable in accordance with the National Assessment Guidelines for Dredging 2009.

Dredging to recover minerals, including removing sand for beach protection works, is prohibited in the Marine Park.

Harbour works and bed levelling

Harbour works requires a ‘carrying out works’ permission and includes activities such as removing incidental navigational hazards, replacing pylons, ramps or cables.

Bed levelling is often conducted as harbour works or to level out the seafloor following a capital or maintenance dredging campaign.

Permitted locations

Permissions for carrying out works cannot be granted in the Remote Natural Area covering most of the Far Northern Management Area.

Carrying out works is not permitted in a Preservation Zones or if it is inconsistent with objectives of other zones or a Plan of Management. There are also non-statutory site plans and site management arrangements that required consideration.

Public comment

New permissions to carry out works may require public comment with the assessment approach of Public Information Package, Public Environment Report or Environmental Impact Statement. Some continuation applications for existing permissions may also require public comment. Specific information is required at the time of application.

Environmental Management Plan

An Environmental Management Plan may be required at the time of application or requested as further information during the assessment.

If permission is granted, an updated Environmental Management Plan will require approval from the us prior to commencing works.

See the assessment guidelines for further information about Environmental Management Plans. 

Permit Deeds and bonds

Most carrying out works permission conditions require the permission holder to enter into a Permit Deed with the Authority. For further information about deeds refer to the application guidelines.

Updated 10 Jul 2024
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