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 Great Barrier Reef fast facts

  • The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system, spanning over 2,300 kilometers (1,400 miles) along the northeast coast of Australia.
  • The reef is made up of more than 2,900 individual coral reefs and 900 islands, covering an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometers (133,000 square miles).
  • The Great Barrier Reef is home to more than 1,500 species of fish, 600 species of hard and soft corals, and thousands of other marine creatures, including dugongs, whales, sea turtles, and sharks.
  • The Great Barrier Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is recognized as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
  • The Great Barrier Reef is estimated to be between 6,000 and 8,000 years old, making it a relatively young ecosystem in geological terms.
  • The Great Barrier Reef is not just a natural wonder but also an economic one, generating more than $6 billion annually in tourism revenue for Australia and supporting over 64,000 jobs.
  • The Great Barrier Reef is under threat from climate change, including rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification, as well as pollution, overfishing, and other human activities.
  • Coral bleaching is a major threat to the Great Barrier Reef, with mass bleaching events occurring in 1998, 2002, 2016, 2020 and 2022, causing significant damage to the reef's ecosystem.
  • Despite the threats facing the Great Barrier Reef, there are conservation efforts underway, including measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote sustainable tourism, and restore damaged areas of the reef.
  • Visitors to the Great Barrier Reef can experience the beauty and diversity of the reef through activities such as snorkeling, diving, and boat tours, but it's important to do so in a responsible and sustainable way to minimize negative impacts on the ecosystem.
  • Click here for more Reef facts 

The Reef Authority 

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, also known as the Reef Authority, is the Australian government agency responsible for the management and protection of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. 

Our primary role is to ensure the long-term protection and conservation of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

To achieve this, the Reef Authority works with a range of stakeholders, including scientists, traditional owners, industries, and the public, to develop and implement policies and programs that help to sustain the Reef's ecological, cultural, and economic values.

  • Some of our key responsibilities include:
  • Developing and implementing management plans for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
  • Conducting research and monitoring programs to understand the health of the Reef and identify areas of concern.
  • Regulating activities in the Marine Park to ensure they are consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development.
  • Providing advice and education to stakeholders on how to protect and conserve the Reef.
  • Working with traditional owners to manage the cultural heritage values of the Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority plays a crucial role in the protection and conservation of one of the world's most important and valuable ecosystems.

By working collaboratively with our stakeholders, the Reef Authority aims to ensure the Great Barrier Reef is protected for future generations.

Find out more about us here.

Reef Authority Fast facts

  • The Reef Authority is the agency responsible for managing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
  • The Reef Authority was established in 1975 and is headquartered in Townsville, Australia.
  • The Marine Park covers an area of approximately 344,000 square kilometers (133,000 square miles).
  • The Reef Authority works in partnership with traditional owners of the land and sea to manage the Great Barrier Reef.
  • The Reef Authority regulates and manages the use of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, including fishing, tourism, and shipping.
  • The Reef Authority conducts research and monitoring to assess the health of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem and to identify and address threats to its survival.
  • The Reef Authority’s Great Barrier Reef Aquarium in Townsville is currently undergoing a major redevelopment.  The Aquarium serves as both a research and education centre.
  • The Reef Authority has a Climate Change Action Plan in place to address the impacts of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • The Reef Authority employs around 220 staff members, including marine scientists, on-water compliance officers, education professionals, and administrative staff.
  • The Reef Authority works with a wide range of stakeholders, including industry, government, traditional owners, scientists, and community groups to protect the Great Barrier Reef for future generations.

Image library

Please visit our image library at Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Online Image Collection (

Story pitches

  • Looking for some great story ideas to get you out on the Great Barrier Reef?  We can help:
  • The best ways to explore the Great Barrier Reef: see the Reef with High Standard Tourism Operators, including scuba diving, snorkeling, and guided tours.  Where to go, what to do and most importantly how to make sure your visit is sustainable and helps protect the Reef for the future.
  • The ancient heart of the Great Barrier Reef: meet the Traditional Owners of Reef Land and Sea country, learn about the cultural significance of the Great Barrier Reef to First Nations people, and discover more about their history and their traditions.
  • The best-of-the-best on the Reef: meet the highly trained and skilled Master Reef Guides who bring their passion, skills, storytelling, and expertise to enhance your experience visiting the Great Barrier Reef and help you understand what you can do to help protect this natural wonder.
  • Under pressure: the Reef is facing increasing pressures from climate change, poor fishing practices and the human impacts on water quality.  We look at what is being done to ease the pressure to boost Reef resilience.
  • Supporting a resilient Reef: the local and global actions that we can all be doing to help build Reef resilience in the face of climate change, both now and into the future.
  • In hot water: the impacts of increasing global temperatures on the Great Barrier Reef and what can be done to take the pressure off.
  • Clone wars: how the Reef Authority is leading the charge in the battle against the ultimate coral killing machine, the crown-of-thorns starfish.  What is being done and how tourism industry is helping.
  • Understanding coral bleaching: the what’s, why’s and how’s of bleaching, and the impacts of climate stress on the Reef.
  • Go below: meet and understand the diverse range of marine life that can be found in the Great Barrier Reef, including sea turtles, sharks, and colorful fish.  Our experts tell their stories of the wonderful world under the sea.
  • Protecting the Reef now and into the future: what Reef tourists can do to help protect this natural wonder. The Great Barrier Reef draws in millions of tourists every year, and that's where sustainable tourism comes in.  Our experts explain responsible Reef practices, and how visiting the Reef with our accredited High Standard Tourism Operators can help this stunning natural wonder remains intact for generations to come.

Reef Authority Media experts

A selection of our subject matter experts to aid in your media, story-telling and campaigns.

Dr Roger Beeden is the Reef Authority’s Chief Scientist. 

Roger provides expert advice that informs decision-making and policy and is a highly experienced science communicator.

Dr Jess Stella is the Reef Authority’s Assistant Director of Reef health. 

Jess is a marine ecologist, specialising in climate change impacts on coral-associated invertebrates and marine park manager with a strong focus on the effects of climate change on the Reef system.

She regularly provides expert advice on relevant Reef issues – climate change, harvest fisheries, state of the Reef - to guide policy development, and is a highly experienced science communicator.

Dr Mark Read is a wildlife biologist and the Reef Authority’s Director of Field Management Strategy.  He specialises in the conservation, management and sustainable use of species and habitats.  

Through the Reef Joint Field Management Program, he works in partnership with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, state and commonwealth agencies, Traditional Owners, Reef users and other stakeholders to develop practical and pragmatic ways to minimise the impact of natural and human-related activities on the Reef.

A large component of this work is considering and testing the application of adaptive management actions (interventions) to island and marine habitats to enhance resilience.

Fred Nucifora is the Director of Reef Education and Engagement at the Reef Authority.

Fred joined the Reef Authority in 2001 and has extensive experience in community and industry engagement and education.

The Reef Authority’s commitment to education and partnering with Reef-dependent industries and communities aims to encourage Reef stewardship action, create lifelong ambassadors for the Reef, and enable inter-generational change.  

Fred’s portfolio includes oversight of the Reef Authority’s Tourism Reef Advisory Committee and flagship programs such as the High Standard Tourism Operators Program, Master Reef Guides, Reef Guardian Councils and Reef Guardian Schools.

Fiona Merida is the acting Director of Reef Education and Engagement at the Reef Authority and holds a degree in Marine Biology, specialising in the Great Barrier Reef.

Fiona has 20 years of experience in tourism management and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park protection.

Her particular focus is on providing targeted tools to build the capacity of individuals to contribute to Reef protection and awareness through programs such as Eye on the Reef and Master Reef Guides.

Fiona is a highly experienced science communicator.

Chris Jones has worked in the tourism industry as a marine biologist guide and now runs the tourism components of the Reef Authority’s Eye on the Reef program.

He is a trainer in all Eye on the Reef tools and systems, including how to incorporate meaningful guest involvement into reef health management.

Chris was the lead content developer on the Reef Discovery Course and is a skilled science communicator.

He is a former zookeeper, field technician for wildlife research in the Northern Territory government and Research Associate at Charles Darwin University.

Dr David Williamson is a marine science and management professional with a research and consultancy track record spanning 25 years.

He has worked throughout Australia and the Indo-Pacific and gained broad experience in coral reef ecology, experimental research, field surveys and marine park management.

He has published more than 60 peer-reviewed papers in international journals.

David is currently working for the Reef Authority as the Acting Director of the Crown-of-thorns Starfish Control Program. 


Dr Kirstin Dobbs is the Director of the Reef Authority’s Great Barrier Reef Aquarium.

She has worked at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for more than 20 years in a variety of roles and has broad knowledge of Marine Park management.

This includes the legislative framework for the permission system and protected species conservation for animals such as marine turtles, dugongs, and whales.

Ed Ug is the Reef Authority’s acting Curator at the Great Barrier Reef Aquarium.  

He has a strong understanding of aquatic system design and technical operations pertinent to a broad range of tropical aquarium species with a particular interest in corals.

Dr Ashley Frisch is the Research and Water Quality Coordinator at Reef HQ Aquarium and has worked at the Reef Authority for 10 years, including three years in the Sustainable Fisheries Group.

 Ashley has a strong background in scientific research, particularly concerning coral reef ecology, fisheries science, and fish biology, and he has published more than 50 peer-reviewed papers in international journals.

Guy Dugdale is the Facilities and Maintenance Manager at the Great Barrier Reef Aquarium. His primary role is to ensure the safe and efficient operation and maintenance of life support systems equipment and asset management of the aquarium.

Guy is a Civil Engineer and a qualified Electrician.

He has a particular interest in project management, sustainability, and renewable energy technologies.

Media contact details

Media Hotline: +61 7  4750 0846
280 Flinders Street Townsville |  PO Box 1379 Townsville QLD 4810
Updated 13 Nov 2023
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