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Compliance and zoning
Reef health

Significant gains in fish numbers and improved resilience for Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef are some of the benefits of a courageous zoning plan introduced twenty years ago.

July 2024 marks 20-years since the introduction of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan. The zoning plan immediately resulted in far greater protection for the world heritage listed area – increasing the no-take area from five to 33 per cent.

At the time, the zoning plan was widely acclaimed as the global benchmark for the conservation of marine ecosystems and provided a model for other large-scale marine protected areas around the world.

CEO of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Mr Josh Thomas, said there was strong evidence of the zoning plan’s effectiveness in protecting biodiversity and building resilience for the Reef.

“No-take marine zones –– or green zones as they are more commonly known –– have shown to be more resistant to impacts, enabling faster recovery for fish and coral communities that have been impacted by disturbances,” Mr Thomas said.

“The science is undeniably clear, and it is heartening to see the vision and foresight of our predecessors come to bear, while we continue to strengthen our wider Reef protection and management practises.”
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is a multi-use area that supports a range of commercial and recreational activities and attracts millions of visitors each year. Balancing conservation and sustainable use is critical to protect the Reef’s health and the values it provides to the community.

The Reef Authority’s Chief Scientist, Dr Roger Beeden said the zoning plan helps manage these activities, from recreational to commercial use, as well as research opportunities on the Reef.

“The Reef is one of the most complex ecosystems on Earth –– and while it is unmatched worldwide in terms of its unique environments and vibrant ecology, it is under pressure from climate change,” Dr Beeden said.

“The benefits of zoning have never been more important, given the stress the Reef is under.”

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan was officially introduced into Commonwealth legislation on 2 December 2003, creating history at the time by establishing the Great Barrier Reef as the largest protected sea area in the world. The zoning plan then officially came into operation in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park on 1 July 2004.

The zoning plan is enforced by the Reef Authority on a day-to-day basis through the Reef Joint Field Management Program which is conducted in collaboration with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.

Updated 10 Jul 2024
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