Managing recreational activity on the Great Barrier Reef

Hamilton Island, Great Barrier Reef (AUS).
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has laid out a plan for managing recreational activity on the Great Barrier Reef as coastal communities continue to expand.

GBRMPA Chairman Russell Reichelt said recreation on the Great Barrier Reef is woven into the social fabric of coastal communities all along the Queensland coast and it generates significant economic value.

'Every year, there's about 14 million recreational visits by local residents plus visits by travellers from outside the Great Barrier Reef region,' Dr Reichelt said.

'It's important for recreational users to be able to enjoy the Marine Park, now and into the future. Spending time on the Reef encourages visitors to care about its protection and long-term future. This magnificent natural wonder is a unique experience available for all to enjoy.'

Dr Reichelt said the Recreation Management Strategy for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park will provide marine managers with a roadmap to manage for sustainable recreational activities, for the continued enjoyment of all visitors.

'As the populations of coastal towns continue to expand, there are more recreational visitors to the Reef to boat, fish, sail, dive, snorkel and swim,' he said. 'An increase in recreational use has the potential to impact on the ecosystem and we want to encourage visitors to look after the environment during their visit.

'If not properly managed, the Marine Park can be affected by anchor damage to coral and seagrass meadows, littering, boat strikes on marine mammals and turtles, and damage to coral when snorkelling and diving,' he said. 'The risks are higher near major regional centres.'

To protect the Reef from these impacts, the GBRMPA will use tools such as zoning plans, plans of management, public moorings, no anchoring areas, stewardship programs and education.

The strategy has been developed in response to the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2009. The Outlook Report recognised the importance of recreation for Reef users, but identified the need for an overarching framework for its management and to improve coordination between managing agencies.

There will also be an increased focus on research into the changing patterns of recreation use. Recreational fishing will continue to be managed by the Queensland Government.

Visit http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/media-room/latest-news/tourism/2012/www.gbrmpa.gov.au/about-the-reef/how-the-reefs-managed/recreation-in-the-great-barrier-reef-marine-park!Recreation_on_the_Great_Barrier_Reef for further information.