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Each year more than two million people visit the Great Barrier Reef. For many Reef users, the public face of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park’s management effort is the field officers they meet when they’re out on the water or on an island.

Field officers are crucial to the management of the World Heritage Area. This includes making sure there is up-to-date regional and site-specific information for visitors, education groups and commercial users on how to enjoy the Reef responsibly.

Facilities such as public moorings, reef protection markers, campgrounds, picnic areas and amenities, walking tracks and lookouts are there to ensure everyone can have a great time out on the Reef and its islands while looking after them for future visitors.

What does the Field Management Program do?

The Field Management Program maintains 127 reef protection markers where there is no anchoring allowed and 128 public-use moorings.

This infrastructure protects the Reef where anchoring would otherwise damage the fragile reefs visitors come to enjoy and facilitates use at sites where visitation is high.

They also look after 163 kilometres of walking track, 111 campgrounds, 21 boardwalks and lookouts and 15 kilometres of public roads.

These well-constructed visitor facilities provide safety and enjoyment to visitors and help protect the environment from human impacts.

Further information about island national parks is available at the Department of Environment and Science. Here you can obtain information about the natural and cultural values and the facilities of the island you are visiting.

Some islands in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area are Commonwealth Islands that are subject to private lease arrangements and Department of Defence activities or are managed by a caretaker.

These islands have additional management arrangements in place.

    Great Barrier Reef Intergovernmental Agreement

    Building the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef is central to the long-term future of this great natural wonder. Given the Reef’s size and complexity, we need to ensure environmental protection while allowing people to benefit through its sustainable use.

    Through the Great Barrier Reef Intergovernmental Agreement, the Australian and Queensland governments have been working together for the long-term management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

    Keeping the Reef healthy requires a collaborative effort. Reef protection and management is a partnership between many government agencies, Traditional Owners, stakeholders and community members, with activities both on the water and in the catchment.


    Out on the water, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, through the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, operate a joint field management program for the marine and island national parks, encompassing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park.

    The field team delivers practical on-ground actions to protect and maintain well-functioning marine and island ecosystems that support the Great Barrier Reef's economic, traditional and recreational uses.

    • Their work involves: 
    • conservation and monitoring
    • incident response 
    • welcoming visitors
    • upholding compliance. 

    2022-23 Field Management Program Priorities 

    The Annual Business Plan Summary outlines the activities and priority projects the Program will undertake in 2022–23 to protect the World Heritage Area from threats, build resilience for marine habitats, islands and species, strengthen partnerships with Traditional Owners and support ecotourism opportunities. 

    Delivering conservation actions 

    The Program delivers conservation actions to protect and recover important values, including coral reefs, seagrass meadows, mangrove forests, coral cays, continental islands, threatened species and cultural heritage.

    • Expected outputs: 
    • Planned burns and hazard reduction reduces bushfire risk, protects property and promotes healthy vegetation
    • Pest management reduces threats to islands and species 
    • Moorings and reef protection markers maintained
    • Management of seabird breeding sites improves
    • Condition and trend of historic heritage assessed

    Checking for change 

    Knowing the condition of values is fundamental to effective management. The Program checks for change on islands and in the water to monitor reef and island conditions and the extent of existing or emerging threats

    • Expected outputs:
    • Reef surveys inform reef health awareness and management
    • Crown-of-thorns starfish surveillance identifies outbreak extent and severity and inform control efforts
    • Understanding of island condition and trend improves
    • Seabird and shorebird surveys monitor population trends
    • Emerging island threats identified
    • Understanding of turtle nesting and foraging sites improves
    • Knowledge of habitats and species, including megafauna improves

    Responding to incidents 

    The Program responds to a wide range of incidents, including ship and vessel groundings, oil and other pollution spills, wildfires, coral bleaching and disease, island and marine pests, stranded marine animals and severe weather events like cyclones.

    • Expected outputs:
    • Risk-based response to incidents
    • In-field assessment of the extent and severity of damage from maritime incidents

    Welcoming people 

    Improving community understanding of values and threats, fostering responsible behaviour, and providing visitor facilities and risk-based permissions management is critical to ecologically sustainable use and good visitor experiences. 

    • Expected outputs: 
    • Timely risk-based assessment and administration of the joint permission system
    • Community stewardship and involvement in field management delivery
    • Connecting and engaging with World Heritage Area users
    • Maintained visitor infrastructure

    Upholding compliance 

    The Program is the principal driver and coordinator of environmental compliance in the World Heritage Area. 
    Risk-focused, well-planned and intelligence-driven patrols are delivered to deter and detect illegal activity. 

    • Expected outputs:
    • Compliance patrols by the Program and partners deter and detect illegal activity
    • Compliance effort corresponds with risk and threat assessments for recreational fishing
    • Marine parks permit conditions are followed
    • Educate the community and industry about World Heritage Area rules and responsibilities
    • Indigenous Compliance Ranger Inspectors are embedded into Program compliance delivery

    More than 348,000 square kilometres of coral reef and its surrounds make up the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area — an area the Reef Joint Field Management Program has been protecting for more than 40 years in on-ground, practical ways.

    The Program is run jointly by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, through the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.

    We strive to bring the work of this program closer to partners, stakeholders and the community. We invite you to view the first issue of Insight Stories — a biannual magazine featuring exciting case studies of the Reef Joint Field Management Program. Enjoy the read!

    Find out more about the Reef Joint Field Management Program’s five-year strategic direction by downloading the Reef Joint Management Program Business Strategy summary 2022–26.

    Previous summaries:

    Compliance and zoning with the Reef Authority and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service – Australia - © QPWS - Photographer: Victor Huertas
    Bird surveying with the Joint Field Management Program – Australia - © QPWS - Photographer: Victor Huertas
    Reef joint field management program divers – Australia - © QPWS - Photographer: Victor Huertas
    Compliance management – Australia - © QPWS - Photographer: Victor Huertas

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    Updated 19 May 2023
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