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The Great Barrier Reef has long been an important resource and a valued place for people to visit, share and enjoy.

Traditional Owners have a special relationship with the Reef that goes back thousands of years. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has also been a multiple-use area that has provided protection, ecologically sustainable use, understanding and enjoyment to local communities, industries and visitors for more than 40 years.

  • The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority considers
  • environmental
  • economic
  • social benefits
  • as well as other impacts when managing these activities and pursuing the best outcomes for both the Great Barrier Reef and the community.

The Reef supports significant commercial industries, especially commercial marine tourism and fisheries, and supports employment equal to over 64,000 full-time positions.

Shipping activity throughout the Great Barrier Reef is also a vital link in the production chain for many industries and services regional centres. Ports are important infrastructure for this shipping industry.

Oil drilling, mining and exploration have been prohibited in the Great Barrier Reef Region since the proclamation of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act in 1975.

Importantly, the use of the Great Barrier Reef Region goes well beyond commercial activities.

It is central to the culture of Traditional Owners, a major recreational area, a place of significant historic heritage value, an internationally important scientific resource and an important area for Defence training.

The Great Barrier Reef is valued by millions of people in Australia and around the world simply because it exists, even if they may never have the opportunity to visit it or derive an income from it.

Recreation on the Great Barrier Reef

Recreation is one of the major uses of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It is woven into the social fabric of coastal communities all along the Queensland coast and generates significant regional economic value.

The Great Barrier Reef attracts over 14 million recreational visits a year, mainly to boat, fish, sail, dive, snorkel and swim. Recreation in the Marine Park is mostly nature-based and relies on a healthy ecosystem.

If you want to visit the Great Barrier Reef, we encourage you plan your visit beforehand and follow Responsible Reef Practices while you are there.

The Outlook Report 2019 found the Great Barrier Reef supports a wide variety of recreational activities and the impacts of recreation are mainly localised in inshore areas around major population centres. It also found visitors to the Great Barrier Reef are consistently very happy with their visit and would recommend the experience.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is one of a number of managing agencies with responsibilities for managing recreation in the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority employs a range of management tools, from regulation and site planning to partnership programs and education. All are supported by risk-based compliance and enforcement.

The Recreation Management Strategy for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park provides an overarching framework for managing recreation by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. It facilitates more coordinated management and sets out in the public arena the management approach of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

  • The risk-based strategy focuses on:
  • Understanding recreational use
  • Working with others
  • Education and public awareness
  • Best practice
  • In-Park management.

The use of super-yachts for recreation is becoming increasingly popular in the Marine Park. A super-yacht is a luxury vessel of 24 metres or more in length. The management arrangements for these larger recreational vessels are set out in A Statement of Management Arrangements in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park for Super-Yacht Operations.

Family snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park  – Australia - © Tourism and Events Queensland

Vessel Registration Levels for the Great Barrier Reef Catchment Area

This site contains a summary of the recreational vessel registrations for the Great Barrier Reef Catchment Area. The 17 Local Government Areas are contained within the Great Barrier Reef Catchment Area.

The information presented on this site is based on data from Queensland Transport.

Working with stakeholders

The marine tourism industry, recreational users, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and other government agencies all have a role to play in ensuring the sustainable use and helping to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

Among those who work with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on key issues relating to tourism and recreation are community groups, recreational users, Local Marine Advisory Committees and Reef Advisory Committees, specifically the Tourism and Recreation Reef Advisory Committee.

Consultation on tourism management specifically is undertaken at all levels of the tourism industry, including operators, sector associations and through the peak marine tourism body, the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators.

Tourism operators participate in many partnership programs to ensure sustainable tourism use. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority encourages Indigenous participation in the marine tourism industry.

Working with the tourism industry and recreational users, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority promotes appreciation and action through newsletters, and information on rules, quality interpretation and best practice.

Working with High Standard Tourism Operators on the Reef - Australia - Commonwealth of Australia (Reef Authority)
Updated 23 Aug 2022
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