Green Sea Turtle, Lady Elliot Island, Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Australia

Park / February 9, 2018

Created in 1975, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park covers 344, 400 square kilometers along Australia's northeastern coast. From the early 1990s, there were concerns that the existing zoning did not adequately protect the range of biodiversity known to exist throughout the Marine Park. Furthermore, the location of most marine reserves at that time reflected a historical focus on coral reef habitats, with an emphasis on the more remote and pristine areas.

Recognizing the importance of using the best available science, the federal Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority worked with scientists to identify 70 unique bioregions. Then they established 2 groups to define guiding principles for development of a new zoning plan:

1) A Scientific Steering Committee developed 11 biological and physical principles, including a minimum amount of protection needed for each different biological region.

2) A Social, Economic, and Cultural Steering Committee developed 4 principles to maximize positive impacts and minimize negative impacts on Marine Park users and other interest groups.

Specially designed computer software was used to evaluate zoning options that met the biological and physical targets. The Authority considered over 31, 000 public comments and information about human uses and values to refine the draft zoning plan. The goal was to achieve the biophysical principles and minimize the potential negative social and economic impacts.

In 2004, the Australian Parliament approved the final plan that included marine reserves encompassing more than 33 percent of the Marine Park. The well-defined scientific guidelines and the careful consideration of public interests contributed to the successful planning process.

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