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  • The Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2019 identified that fishing continues to negatively affect the health and resilience of the Reef through:
  • incidental impacts on species of conservation concern
  • over-fishing of some species
  • illegal fishing
  • impacts on discarded catch
  • damage to habitats.

As well as observing fishing regulations, it is important that those who fish adopt responsible fishing practices while out on the water.

These practices help to protect the natural environment, maintain the ecological balance of the Reef and contribute to improving its general health.

Fishing position statement

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority released its Fishing position statement

Our position is: the Reef Authority is dedicated to the long-term protection and conservation of the Great Barrier Reef, which includes its species, habitats, and ecosystem processes. The Reef Authority supports ecologically sustainable fisheries where they are consistent with the long-term protection and conservation of the Reef. In a World Heritage Area, fisheries in the Great Barrier Reef should exhibit the highest standards for ecological sustainability.


The Reef Authority supports improved fisheries management through an eco-system-based approach, complementary educational programs and environmental stewardship to reduce risks from fishing to the Marine Park.

Fishing is a long-established activity in the Marine Park that provides important social, economic and cultural benefits, and is a way for people to develop connections to the marine environment and build community cohesion.

Fishers rely on a healthy and resilient marine ecosystem to support their activities.

However, habitats and species of the Marine Park are under unprecedented pressure from the cumulative impacts of climate change, land-based run-off, coastal development and fishing.

All fishing activities are required to comply with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003, with approximately 67 per cent of the Marine Park available for various types of fishing.

Fisheries management 

Fisheries management within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is the responsibility of the Queensland Government through the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. This includes commercial licencing, setting of total allowable commercial catch, seasonal closures, and limits to the size and number of fish kept by recreational fishers.

The Australian Government, through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, is responsible for implementing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003, which identifies where various activities, including fishing, are permitted.

The the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority aims to ensure understanding of and compliance with the management regimes in the Great Barrier Reef Region through public information and education programs, and the adoption of satellite-based vessel monitoring systems.

  • The the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority works closely with stakeholders across the World Heritage Area including:
  • commercial fishers
  • recreational fishers
  • conservation groups
  • community groups
  • government agencies.


  • The Authority considers the following principles important to improve fishing outcomes in the Marine Park:
  • an ecosystem-based approach that considers the impacts of all fishing on species and habitats
  • harvest strategies that achieve long-term ecological sustainability and the recovery of over-fished stocks
  • improved monitoring data, including independent verification where possible, of commercial and recreational catch
  • measures that ensure species of conservation concern are not threatened by fishing activities (by-catch mitigation)
  • adaptive fisheries management that incorporates climate change impacts and other ecosystem changes
  • a high level of compliance with fishing rules and regulations by commercial and recreational sectors.

A collaborative assessment has improved understanding of the risks from trawling in the Great Barrier Reef. This understanding allows focused efforts to reduce risks where necessary.

Implications for communities

Commercial fishing in the Marine Park is an important contributor to Australia’s seafood industry and generates approximately $104 million annually.

Potential future declines in the health of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem could have serious economic implications for local communities.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders also have a close connection to the Great Barrier Reef and fishing is an important custom. This custom, along with other traditional uses and caring for sea country, reinforces Traditional Owner culture, protocols and connections to the Great Barrier Reef.

Declines in culturally significant species can affect the Indigenous heritage values of the Reef. The Authority acknowledges the rights of Traditional Owners to fish and gather from their Sea Country as recognised in the Native Title Act 1993.

Commercial fishing operator in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park  – Australia - © Tourism and Events Queensland
Updated 11 Jul 2024
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