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Onboard - Tourism Operator's Handbook for the Great Barrier Reef

What is the Marine Park?

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The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is a marine protected area established by the Australian Government to protect the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park is a Queensland State marine protected area adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

What are all the lines on the map?

If you pick up any map of the Great Barrier Reef you will notice many different lines marking many different areas (see Download map). Most of the Great Barrier Reef Region, including both the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the State Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park, is a World Heritage Area.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park itself is divided up into Management Areas to help simplify management and there are defined planning areas where individual Plans of Management apply.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (345 400 km2) is a Commonwealth marine park. Along with all the waters below mean low water mark, it includes some islands or parts of islands that are Commonwealth-owned. Most of these islands are former Commonwealth lighthouse reserves such as Low Isles and Lady Elliot Island.

Also included in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park are:

  • the subsoil beneath the seabed extending to a depth of 1000 metres
  • the airspace above extending to a height of 915 metres.

Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park

The Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park is the Queensland State marine park adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It includes inshore, intertidal and estuarine areas. For most inshore areas such as estuaries and along beaches, the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park extends seaward from the high-water mark.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Management Areas

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is divided into a number of Management Areas.

  • Far Northern (85 200 km2)
  • Cairns/Cooktown (35 500 km2)
  • Townsville/Whitsunday (76 100 km2)
  • Mackay/Capricorn (143 400 km2).

These management areas assist the GBRMPA with protecting the large area it is responsible for managing. They may be referred to on your permit.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Planning Areas

Planning Areas are subsections of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park where special management provisions apply. These provisions are set out in a plan of management specific to the area.

There are currently three declared Planning Areas within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park that are relevant to tourism operators. They are:

There is also a Plan of Management for the Shoalwater Bay area that specifically focuses on the protection of dugong.

Are the islands protected?

The Great Barrier Reef area is also dotted with hundreds of beautiful continental islands and coral cays providing habitats for a myriad of plants and animals. About one third of these islands are island National Parks. Island National Parks extend inland from the high water mark. The high water mark is usually the highest flotsam line on the beach. Some islands are owned by the Commonwealth Government and are part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Only a few islands are privately owned.

© Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority