The Great Barrier Reef

What is a coral reef?

Coral reefs are warm, clear, shallow ocean habitats that are rich in life. The reef's massive structure is formed from coral polyps, tiny animals that live in colonies; when coral polyps die, they leave behind a hard, stony, branching structure made of limestone.

What is the Great Barrier Reef?

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system, made up of over 2,900 individual reefs and islands and stretches over 2600 km.

Human Impact

More than two million people visit the reef each year generating more than $AU2 billion in tourism dollars, making tourism a major earner for the north-eastern Australian economy. Tourists are carried to the reef system by more than 500 commercial vessels, and tourism is permitted through nearly all the Park. Most of the Reef is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and various parts of it are protected in certain ways. For example, fishing is restricted in some areas and particular animals - like whales, dolphins, and green turtles - are protected. Tourism has a negative impact, with fragile corals broken by reef walking, dropped anchors or by boats dropping fuel and other sorts of pollution.

Importance of the Great Barrier Reef

It is a likely source of shelter and food for thousands of marine and plantlife, without it the balance of the oceanic ecosystem will be thrown off, and they act as a barrier between the island shore and the open ocean.

Some major threats to the health of the reef are pollution, runoff, climate change, crown of thorn starfish, overfishing, bleaching, and tropical cyclones.

Things that can be done to help preserve the Great Barrier reef are:

  • Support reef-friendly businesses
  • Don’t use chemically enhanced pesticides and fertilizers
  • Volunteer for a reef cleanup
  • Learn more about coral reefs
  • When you visit a coral reef, help keep it healthy by respecting all local guidelines, recommendations, regulations, and customs.
  • Support conservation organizations
  • Be an informed consumer
  • Don’t pollute
  • Recycle
  • Conserve water
  • Report dumping or other illegal activities
  • Keep it clean
  • Not anchoring on the reef