Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

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1 Case Studies Level 1+ Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Area: Queensland Country: Australia Date of Completion: Pen Picture The Great Barrier Reef, off Queensland s east coast, is an international icon and a designated World Heritage Site. The Great Barrier Reef National Park includes almost all the Great Barrier Reef primarily for conservation purposes. However, commercial and extractive industries take place on a sustainable basis. The Park is managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), a Commonwealth Government Agency. The Great Barrier Reef brings in over $5 billion to the Australian economy and is used by 4.9 million people each year. Key Lessons Collection of an Environmental Management Charge to raise $7 million per annum to reinvest in conservation and management 25 year strategic plan to guide all activities Use of zoning Establishment of Marine tourism Contingency Plan High quality information on user-friendly web sites Location Overview Off Queensland s east coast and stretches over 2,000 km from south of Papua New Guinea to Bundaberg, north of Brisbane. From S/ E to S/ E. The Great Barrier Reef comprises about 2,400 unconnected coral reefs and 900 islands. It is a massive formation with reefs growing over 8,000 years. It is the largest, most complex and diverse coral reef system in the world. Designated in 1981 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site the largest World Heritage Site ever established. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is a marine protected area which includes almost all of the Great Barrier Reef. It encompasses an area of about 345,400 square kilometres, commencing at the tip of Cape York and extending along the Queensland coast to just north of Bundaberg. The Marine STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

2 Park includes the entire marine environment below low water mark, except for a small number of exclusions around major shipping ports. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is a protected area with a difference. While protection of the area and its values is the principal aim, a range of commercial and extractive activities is undertaken within the Marine Park. The major uses include tourism, commercial and recreational fishing, and shipping. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, a Commonwealth government agency, is responsible for ensuring that this multiple use Marine Park is used sustainably and is preserved for future generations. It is also the lead agency responsible for ensuring that Australia s obligations under the World Heritage Convention are met. 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. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is divided into a number of Management Areas. Far Northern ( km 2 ) Cairns/Cooktown ( km 2 ) Townsville/Whitsunday ( km 2 ) Mackay/Capricorn ( km 2 ). These management areas assist the GBRMPA with protecting the large area it is responsible for managing. They may be referred to on visitor permits. 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: Cairns Planning Area Hinchinbrook Planning Area Whitsunday Planning Area. There is also a Plan of Management for the Shoalwater Bay area that specifically focuses on the protection of dugong. 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 extending 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. The Reef is a complex ecosystem with many creatures relying on each other for food and survival. Virtually all groups of marine plants and animals are abundantly represented in the Reef. Only tropical rainforests come close to rivalling the Reef for richness of species. There are also many threatened species that are protected within the Marine Park, including dugongs and six of the world s seven species of marine turtles. Many Indigenous values and traditions are linked to the Reef, focussing on trade networks, beliefs, music, art, laws and creation stories. The links between Indigenous groups and the Reef have been imbedded into the culture over thousands of years and continue today. There are coastal communities along the STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

3 entire Great Barrier Reef coast who have traditional affiliations with the Great Barrier Reef and take an interest in its management. Captain James Cook is one of the most famous Great Barrier Reef explorers, charting and naming many of the Reef s landmarks during his 1770 voyage on the Endeavour. However, he didn t name the Reef. That honour fell to Matthew Flinders in In the early days of settlement along the Queensland coast, shipping in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef was one of the most reliable ways to transport goods, supplies and, of course, people to the expanding coastal communities. The legacy of this era is a number of significant shipwrecks, plus historic lighthouses and ruins on some islands. Many marine parks throughout the world are set up as strict preservation areas ( look but don t take ) that do not allow any extractive activities such as fishing and collecting. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is different it is a multiple use protected area. In other words, the Marine Park is managed to protect the Reef s natural and cultural heritage values, and at the same time allow for a diverse range of sustainable commercial and recreational activities including fishing, tourism, research and education. The goal of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is to provide for the protection, wise use, understanding and enjoyment of the Great Barrier Reef in perpetuity through the care and development of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The Great Barrier Reef brings billions of dollars into Australia s economy estimated at over $5 billion each year. That translates to many jobs and livelihoods both along the Great Barrier Reef coast and around Australia. Tourism is by far the largest industry on the Reef, followed by commercial and recreational fishing. Tourists visiting the Reef contribute to its management by paying the Environmental Management Charge. In , they paid over $7 million to management, education and research in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Drawn by the Reef s spectacular beauty and international reputation, tourists make over 1.9 million visits to the Marine Park each year, while recreational users make an estimated 4.9 million visits annually. The number of tourists visiting the Marine Park has been stable over the last decade, following strong growth in the late 1980s and early 1990s. There are about 820 permitted tourism operators in the Marine Park, most operating in the Cairns/Port Douglas area or in the Whitsundays. Although these two areas comprise less than 10% of the Marine Park, they are visited by over 85% of visitors. Status of Conservation Designation World Heritage Site inscribed in 1981 National Park Act 1975 Strategic Plan for whole World Heritage Site Area 1994 STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

4 Zoning Plans adopted 2004 Background/History 1975 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 passed in response to growing concern over the possible environmental impacts of mining 1977 Capricorn Bunker Section Zoning Plan commenced 1979 Shared management arrangements for the Marine Park agreed between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments 1981 Great Barrier Reef inscribed on the World Heritage list 1982 Queensland Marine Parks Act 1982 commenced 1983 Cairns Section Zoning Plan commenced Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations commenced 1986 Far Northern Section Zoning Plan commenced 1987 Central Section Zoning Plan commenced 1988 Mackay/Capricorn Section Zoning Plan commenced 1992 New Cairns Section Zoning Plan commenced 1993 Environmental Management Charge introduced 1997 Shoalwater Bay (Dugong) Plan of Management commenced 1998 Whitsundays Plan of Management commenced Cairns Area Plan of Management commenced 1999 Cairns Area Plan of Management amended Whitsundays Plan of Management amended 2001 New Far Northern Section Zoning Plan commenced 2002 Cairns Area Plan of Management amended Whitsundays Plan of Management amended Gumoo Woojabuddee Section Zoning Plan commenced 2004 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park zoning Plan (replaces all previous section Zoning Plans) came into effect Cairns Area Plan of Management amended Hinchinbrook Plan of Management commenced Aims/Objectives Protection of natural environment Respect for the cultural significance of the area Ensuring sustainable economic, social and cultural development Assisting the marine tourism industry to contribute to these aims Key Resource Facts See Overview. Biodiversity 1,500 species of fish STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

5 400 species of coral Many endangered and rare species Area supports largest dugong populations in world and is important breeding ground for whales and dolphins Six of the world s seven species of marine turtles Culture/Heritage Central to the social economic and spiritual life of coastal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Key Tourism Facts History of Tourism Use The earliest instance of organised tourism on the Great Barrier Reef was in the 1890s when Green Island became a destination for pleasure cruises offshore of Cairns. By the 1930s tourism resorts had begun to develop at Green Island and at Heron Island further south. During the first half of the 20th century, most tourist activity was inshore and close to regional centres, being limited by vessel technology and poor transport links to southern capitals. During the 1960s and 1970s there was steady growth in visitor numbers, particularly at Green Island and in the Whitsundays. By the end of the 1970s new, faster vessels extended the range of a day trip to the Reef to between 15 and 20 nautical miles. Reef tourism grew rapidly in the 1980s and early 1990s, assisted by improved air access to a number of regional centres (including an international airport in Cairns) and improved road transport links. In the early 1980s visitor numbers to the Marine Park were increasing by about 30% per year. There was also a steady growth in the number of operations over this time, and the capacity, range and diversity of products offered expanded markedly. High-speed modern vessels extended the range of a day trip to the reef to over 50 nautical miles. Tourism Today Tourism is now the largest commercial activity in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Generating directly into the economy over $6 billion per annum, the marine tourism industry is a major contributor to the local and Australian economies. About 1.6 million tourists now visit the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park each year. This number has remained relatively static since the mid 1990s. About 85% of tourists visit the Marine Park in the area offshore of Cairns and in the Whitsundays, a combined area of less than 10% of the Marine Park. There are approximately 730 tourism operators and 1,500 vessels and aircraft permitted to operate in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. About 60% of these permitted operators are actively undertaking a tourism operation in the Marine Park. There is a diverse range of tourism operations catering to the differing needs of visitors to the Great Barrier Reef. However, the motivation for any trip to the Reef is usually nature-based activities focused on the coral and other marine life. Activities typically include: snorkelling; scuba diving; fishing; excursions in glassbottomed boats and semi-submersible vessels; and learning about the marine environment. The marine tourism industry plays an important role in presenting the World Heritage area to a wide range of visitors. In fact, for many visitors to coastal STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

6 Queensland, the tourism fleet is their primary means of experiencing the Great Barrier Reef and learning about its World Heritage values. Managing Tourism Use of the Great Barrier Reef Keeping the Barrier Reef Great for future generations requires the cooperative effort of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, other government agencies, the marine tourism industry and other stakeholders. By working together, the diversity, integrity and productivity of the Great Barrier Reef can be maintained and the impacts of all activities in the Marine Park can be minimised. The goal is to provide for the protection, wise use, understanding and enjoyment of the Great Barrier Reef in perpetuity. In managing tourism use of the Marine Park, particular attention is given to: protecting coral reefs and other habitats such as seagrass from anchor damage, poor diving practices, waste disposal, reef walking and collecting protecting turtles and seabirds from disturbance, especially during nesting seasons respecting the cultural importance of the Great Barrier Reef to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders minimising conflicts in access within this multiple use Marine Park informing the community about the Great Barrier Reef and its World Heritage values encouraging the adoption of best practices within tourism operations assisting the marine tourism industry to contribute to management initiatives and monitoring programs. Fundamental to management is the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 (Cwlth). Its regulations provide the framework for the establishment, care and ongoing management of the Marine Park. There is also a reef-wide system of zoning which defines in broad terms a set of management objectives for each zone along with a description of what activities, especially extractive activities, may or may not take place, including those that require a permit. Permits are required for all tourism activities in the Marine Park. It is through these permits that the activities that may be undertaken by each operator are defined and any necessary conditions described. Management issues relating to tourism use of a specific region can be further addressed through plans of management. Such plans have been developed for the Cairns Area and Whitsundays (the two major tourism nodes in the Marine Park). These plans are designed to manage: environmental protection of these high-use sites separation of different uses resolution of conflicting use limiting use where necessary. Tourism use is also managed on a finer scale through specific management initiatives for popular reefs and bays. Here the focus is on localised issues, and any plans and management strategies are developed in close consultation with local users. A set of best practices has been developed to guide the activities of tourism operators and visitors in the Marine Park. Many of the tourism associations have developed voluntary codes of conduct to ensure that their members operations are sustainable. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

7 communicates information about management requirements and sustainable use through a range of quality information products and training opportunities. Increasingly, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is recognising the important role that the marine tourism industry plays in presenting the area to the general public and its potential to work in partnership with managers to achieve best practice, sustainable use of the Marine Park. Through working cooperatively with the marine tourism industry, the Park aims to ensure a sustainable and vibrant future for tourism on the Great Barrier Reef. Key Issues associated with tourism development/management Research by Access Economics examined tourism in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Catchment Area (GBRCA) in The above figures show that tourism is responsible for the direct and indirect employment of 92,000 people in this catchment area and $6.7 billion of economic activity. Tourism Impacts Total Value Added $m Total GDP $m Total Employment FTE 000 (A) Direct Visitors from GBRCA Visitors rest of Queensland Interstate visitors 1,057 1, International visitors 1,057 1, Other Sub total 3,060 3, (B) Indirect Visitors from GBRCA Visitors rest of Queensland Interstate visitors 1,103 1, International visitors 1,282 1, Other Sub total 3,702 4, Total 6,762 7, Source: Access Economics Management/Organisation/Funding/Finance Four elements underlie the management philosophy of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority: 1. Management at the ecosystem level to achieve overall protection of the ecosystem 2. Conservation and reasonable use so that while the ecosystem is protected, opportunities are still provided for sustainable use and enjoyment of the Great Barrier Reef STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

8 3. Public participation and community involvement in the development and implementation of management 4. Monitoring and performance evaluation of management. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act was among the first in the world to deal comprehensively with the management of a marine ecosystem. The values which led to the passage of the Act were also recognised in 1981 by the inscription of the Great Barrier Reef on the World Heritage List. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act provides the framework for managing the Great Barrier Reef as a large ecosystem. In developing zoning plans to provide the means of strategic management of the Great Barrier Reef, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has placed a major emphasis on understanding the linkages between sites and activities within the Great Barrier Reef and between the adjacent mainland. Conservation and Reasonable Use The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act provides for conservation of the Great Barrier Reef and reasonable use of the Great Barrier Reef Region. In doing this it anticipated the global movement towards ecologically sustainable development. Four of the five Marine Park sections are covered by zoning plans which provide the strategic framework for management. Each zoning plan provides for protection and sustainable use of the natural ecosystem and thus meets the criteria of a Category 6 Protected Area under the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Guidelines for Protected Area Management Categories. Within the zoning plans there are strictly protected areas which meet the criteria of IUCN Category 1 Preservation of Scientific Research Zones. There are also national park zones equivalent to IUCN Category 2. Other zones, including habitat protection, general use and buffer zones, provide for a range of conservation measures consistent with sustainable use and address the rest of the spectrum of the IUCN Protected Area categories. While the zoning plans provide largely for spatial separation into zones, seasonal closure and other temporary closure measures provide for temporal separation of activities, particularly where such separation or closure protects animals or plants at sensitive times of their reproductive cycle. In addition to the spatial and temporal management, the zoning plans establish a system for permitting activities that need to be considered on a case-by-case basis to address individual or cumulative impacts. The strategic framework of the zoning plans is augmented at the tactical level by site and area management plans for particularly sensitive or heavily used areas. Management plans must be consistent with the zoning for the area in question by addressing issues such as recreational and tourist setting, the protection of fragile areas and the placement and management of moorings. They also establish policy in relation to permitting activities. The broader context of management is addressed by long-range, 25-year strategic planning. In , over 60 community and interest groups took part in a process that identified long-term goals and established objectives for the management of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The management of use and impacts and the achievement of reasonable sustainable use must involve the people whose use and activities relate to the Reef. There are extensive formal and informal means for achieving community input and involvement in the work of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act provides for Commonwealth, Queensland and community members of the Authority, which is the governing board for the STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

9 management of the Marine Park. It also provides for a Consultative Committee whose members are nominated by both the Commonwealth and Queensland governments. The Act provides in some detail for public participation in the development of zoning plans and, from the start, the Authority adopted a practice of public participation which has gone well beyond the basic requirements of the legislation. The Authority and its partner agencies operate by establishing and implementing a management regime for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and World Heritage Area. This engenders a responsibility to monitor the condition of the managed system and the effectiveness of implementation of the management. The biophysical condition of the Great Barrier Reef Region is addressed by the State of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Report. The effectiveness of management is addressed through assessment and reporting of Authority programs and the day-to-day management of the Marine Park. One of the key ways the tourism industry advises the GBRMPA is through the Tourism and Recreation Advisory Committee (TRRAC). This provides the face-toface link between the Authority and the industry. The Committee meets quarterly and in different regional centres. It has 20 members each appointed for three years, including an independent Chair. The Director of the GBRMPA s Tourism and Recreation Group is a member. The Executive director of the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO) attends as an advisor. TRAAC is a competency-based committee with members providing a cross section of stakeholder expertise and interest relevant to the use of the GBR for tourism recreation. There is a suite of management tools and arrangements that ensures sustainable tourism and other opportunities throughout the Marine Park, and maintains the diversity, integrity and productivity of the reef. Understanding zoning and strategies for anchoring and mooring will give operators a great basis on which to build other knowledge. Since the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act was introduced in 1975, there have been gradual changes and developments in management of the Marine Park. Working in partnership is a key component of tourism management in the Marine Park. The marine tourism industry, recreational users, the GBRMPA and other government agencies, all have a role to play in keeping the Barrier Reef GREAT. Many operators contribute to Marine Park management at particular tourism sites and become involved in onsite monitoring. They also play an important role in presenting the Marine Park and informing visitors about what makes it special. For each of the major issues facing the Marine Park, the GBRMPA has a Reef Advisory Committee, including a Tourism and Recreation Reef Advisory Committee. This committee advises the GBRMPA on key issues related to tourism and recreation in the Marine Park. Community consultation is a vital part of effective management. Local communities along the coast are encouraged to contribute to management through Local Marine Advisory Committees and other programs. There are Local Marine Advisory Committees in each of the major centres from Cooktown to Bundaberg. Each has representation from a wide range of community groups, including the tourism sector. The key aspect of management is working in partnership and cooperating with stakeholders and local communities to find common, mutually beneficial outcomes. The underlying statute is the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 and its Regulations. It is through this legislation that the Marine Park was established, STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

10 and ongoing tools such as permits and Plans of Management are provided for. The Queensland State Marine Parks Act 1982 applies to the adjacent State Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park. In the key tourism areas of Cairns, Hinchinbrook and the Whitsundays, Plans of Management further ensure sustainable use by setting out some broad arrangements for tourism activities. They are an overlay to zoning and help protect the specific natural and cultural values of the area. Site management arrangements address specific concerns at key tourism and recreation sites. They use a variety of management arrangements including mooring and anchoring strategies. All tourism operators are required to have a permit to operate in the Marine Park. It describes the type of operation undertaken and enables a tailored approach to individual business needs. The tourism industry is working closely with the GBRMPA to continue to achieve high standards, and help further protect the Marine Park. In 1994, The 25 Year Strategic Plan for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area was produced to provide strategies for managing and preserving the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area for a 25 year period. It provides the basis to ensure wise use of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area forever. The Strategic Plan gave everyone who has a stake in the Reef s long-term future a say in how the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is to be managed over the next 25 years. This approach will ensure the Reef remains in a healthy state and can be enjoyed by future generations. From the beginning, emphasis was placed on the concerns and opinions of all stakeholders. These included governments, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, conservationists, scientists, recreational users and established Reef industries such as fishing, shipping and tourism. Overall, the Strategic Plan was endorsed by almost 70 organisations representing all levels of government, recreational and commercial users, conservation and scientific groups and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Through the Strategic Plan one of the Authority s basic beliefs comes to life: the Great Barrier Reef belongs to everyone and should be managed by everyone to ensure a healthy Reef for the future. The overall vision for the Plan states that: In the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area in 25 years there will be: A healthy environment: an Area which maintains its diversity of species and habitats, and its ecological integrity and resilience, parts of which are in pristine condition. Sustainable multiple use Maintenance and enhancement of values Integrated management Knowledge-based but cautious decision making in the absence of information An informed, involved, committed community. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority understands the economic hardship that may result from an incident and has adopted the Marine Tourism Contingency Plan to facilitate temporary relocations for affected tourism operations as rapidly as possible. This plan is particularly important for the Cairns, Whitsundays and Hinchinbrook areas where the number and STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

11 locations of tourism operations and structures are closely managed through Plans of Management. The approach facilitates temporary relocations which allow operations to continue in the short term while longer term solutions are established. Relocations under this plan are intended to be granted for a maximum period of up to 12 months. Achievements/Innovation Contacts Bibliography Preparation and implementation of management zoning Establishment of the tourism and recreation advisory committee Examples of innovative product development and interpretation The introduction of the environmental charge. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority GBRMPA 2002 State of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Report. GMRMPA Skeat, H 2003 Sustainable Tourism in Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Year Book - Australia. Australia Now, Australian Bureau of Statistics GBRMPA 2000 Tourism Operator s Handbook for the Great Barrier Reef. GBRMA, Townsville Ilett, A and Skeat, H Ilett, A and Aiello et al Madin, E and Fenton, M Skeat, A and Skeat, H 2003 Managing Tourism Sustainably lessons learned on the Great Barrier Reef. Proceedings of the 9 th Meeting of the International Coral Reef Symposium, Bali 2000 The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area Ecotourism in the world s largest marine protected area in Charters, T and Law, K (eds) Best Practice in Ecotourism in Queensland. Tourism Queensland, Brisbane 2004 Environmental Interpretation in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park: An Assessment of Programme Effectiveness. Jnl of Sustainable Tourism. Vol 12, No 2. Channel View 2003 Systems to make tourism and others contribute to protected areas the Great Barrier Reef. Vth World Parks Conference: Sustainable Finance Streams. Durban, S Africa Websites: STEVENS & ASSOCIATES

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