The Great Barrier Reef region spreads out 2,300kms from the Tropic of Capricorn in the south to the tip of Cape York in the north. It includes over 2900 reefs and 1000 islands and cays. The total area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is 345,400km² along the Queensland coastline. The reef is bountiful with a wide variety of fish (1500 species), hard corals (395 types), birds (175 species), and marine and land animals. One-third of the world's soft corals and six of the world's seven species of threatened marine turtles reside in the Great Barrier Reef region.
Along with them inhabit the seas, molluscs and different varieties of sponges, crustaceans, worms, starfishes and urchins, and sea birds. The Great Barrier Reef region is listed under the World Heritage site and is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The approximate population of the GBR region in 2005 was 781,200 people which closes down to 20% of Queensland’s population. The current yearly population growth rate for the GBR region is 1.29%, with the older population increasing at a faster rate. However, the older age group in the GBR region is comparatively smaller than the average for Queensland. When compared with the rest of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef region is lacking in socio-economic provisions. The unemployment rate and household and family income for the GBR region are slightly higher than the average for Queensland.
The bulk of the land in the GBR region is used for grazing natural vegetation but still, the gross revenue is much lower than those acquired from other land uses such as irrigation and cropping.
It was estimated in 2003 that the GVP for mining, tourism, and agricultural industries together in the GBR region was over $14 billion with tourism contributing $4.2 billion, mining contributing $7 billion, and agriculture contributing $3.2 billion. 62% of Queensland’s ports exports were from the ports of the Great Barrier Reef region.
The marine tourism business is the most important business in the Great Barrier Reef and a foremost contributor to the Australian economy. Yearly, it generates over $4 billion, being the largest industrial activity in the Great Barrier Reef region.
For a majority of guests to Great Barrier Reef, the tourism task force which includes 820 operators and 1500 vessels that operate in Marine Park is the primary way of experiencing the Great Barrier Reef. There are various types of tourism activities in the Great Barrier Reef which include day/overnight tours, snorkeling, and scuba diving, fishing, swimming with dolphins, whale watching, aircraft excursions, charters, sailing, cruises, glass-bottomed coral viewing, semi-submersibles, educational trips, and water sports.
The tourism industry is a vulnerable issue with issues such as climate change, ocean circulation, sea level rises, increasing intensity of cyclones and storms, coral bleaching, loss of marine animals, etc.
Due to huge amounts of sediment flowing, due to grazing and cropping, from the land into the marine park and due to coral bleaching (mainly in the years 1998 and 2002) have to lead to loss of wetlands, vegetation, corals, and marine life.
During the third huge coral bleaching that took place from 2014 to 2017, it was estimated; with aerial surveys that more than 75 percent mass bleaching of global reefs and 30 percent suffered mortality level stress
The Reef has been a well-protected, unspoiled wonderland where the seas are booming with fragile corals and plentiful fish life and other marine life. But with time came forward the truth of overfishing, land-based pollution, and coral bleaching which was destroying the Great Barrier Reef.
The Reef is under the protection of the Australian Government and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP). The result was in the form of marine sanctuaries within the Park’s boundaries covering an area of 11 million hectares. The GBRMP is divided into 70 different diverse biological regions having a variety of vegetation and flora and fauna. A minimum percentage of this area is protected from fishing to balance the ecosystem and protect the reef.
To protect the reefs and further reduce them from the destruction it is necessary that healthy fishing levels are maintained, reduce land-based sedimentation, and trim down CO2 emissions.