A critical review of environmental management of the 'not so Great' Barrier Reef

Brodie, Jon, and Waterhouse, Jane (2012) A critical review of environmental management of the 'not so Great' Barrier Reef. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science , 104-105. pp. 1-22.

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Recent estimates put average coral cover across the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) at about 20-30%. This is estimated to be a large reduction since the 1960s. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act was enacted in 1975 and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) set up shortly afterwards. So the question is: why has coral cover continued to decline when the GBR is being managed with a management regime often recognised as the best managed coral reef system in the world', based on a strong science-for-management ethic. The stressors which are known to be most responsible for the loss of coral cover (and general 'reef health') are terrestrial pollution including the link to outbreaks of crown of thorns starfish, fishing impacts and climate change. These have been established through a long and intensive research effort over the last 30 years. However the management response of the GBRMPA after 1975, while based on a strong science-for-management program, did not concentrate on these issues but instead on managing access through zoning with restrictions on fishing in very limited areas and tourism management. Significant action on fishing, including trawling, did not occur until the Trawl Management Plan of 2000 and the rezoning of the GBR Marine Park in 2004. Effective action on terrestrial pollution did not occur until the Australian Government Reef Rescue initiative which commenced in 2008. Effective action on climate change has yet to begin either nationally or globally. Thus it is not surprising that coral cover on the GBR has reduced to values similar to those seen in other coral reef areas in the world such as Indonesia and the Philippines. Science has always required long periods to acquire sufficient evidence to drive management action and hence there is a considerable lime lag between the establishment of scientific evidence and the introduction of effective management. It can still be credibly claimed that the GBR is the best managed coral reef system in the world but it must be realised that this is a relative assessment against other reef systems and management regimes and not an absolute claim for effective management.

Item ID: 25501
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1096-0015
Keywords: coral reef, marine park, management evaluation, climate change, pollution, seagrass
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2013 05:37
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050205 Environmental Management @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9607 Environmental Policy, Legislation and Standards > 960701 Coastal and Marine Management Policy @ 100%
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