The Great Barrier Reef region spreads out 2,300km from the Tropic of Capricorn in the south to the tip of Cape York in the north. 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.
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 in the Great Barrier Reef and a foremost contributor to the Australian economy. Yearly, it generates over $4 billion, being the most prominent industrial activity in the Great Barrier Reef region.
The various types of tourism activities in the Great Barrier Reef are day/overnight tours, snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing, swimming with dolphins, whale watching, aircraft excursions, charters, sailing, cruises, glass-bottomed boat coral viewing, semi-submersibles, educational trips, and water sports.
The tourism industry is vulnerable to climate change, ocean circulation, sea level rises, increasing intensity of cyclones and storms, coral bleaching, loss of marine animals, etc.
Due to vast amounts of sediment flowing, grazing and cropping, from the land into the marine park, coral bleaching (mainly in the years 1998 and 2002) have led to the loss of wetlands, vegetation, corals, and marine life.
During the third massive coral bleaching that took place from 2014 to 2017, it was estimated; with aerial surveys that more than 75% of mass bleaching of global reefs and 30% suffered mortality level stress.
The Reef has been a well-protected, unspoiled wonderland where the seas are booming with fragile corals and abundant fish life and other marine life. But with time, the truth of overfishing, land-based pollution, and coral bleaching 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 marine sanctuaries within the Park’s boundaries, covering 11 million hectares. The GBRMP is divided into 70 different diverse biological regions with various vegetation, flora, and fauna. A minimum percentage of this area is protected from fishing to balance the ecosystem and protect the reef.
Healthy fishing levels must be maintained to protect the reefs, further reduce them from destruction, reduce land-based sedimentation, and trim down CO2 emissions.