The Great Barrier Reef

Enjoying The Great Barrier Reef Responsibly

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the largest natural feature on earth.

Voted as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, it comprises of nearly 3000 individual coral reefs, 600 islands, 300 coral cays and over 1500 species of fish. With so much to see, this famous natural landmark in Queensland is an outdoor recreational haven, with snorkelling, diving and boating being popular activities for getting up close to the reef. However, with news reports stating that the Great Barrier Reef is under threat, there is an increasing pressure to ensure that tourism in the area is responsibly managed.

The key facts

According to the BBC World News, UNESCO warned last year that the Great Barrier Reef could be placed on the World Heritage list of sites in danger. Reports suggest that it has lost half of its coral cover over the last 20 years or so, and that this could halve again by 2022. Despite this claim, an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald argued that Australia is making substantial progress on United Nations requests for better protection of the Great Barrier Reef, with programs aimed at reducing the threats already in place. Either way, what is certain, is that we all have a part to play in helping to conserve this beautiful natural wonder, so that future generations can enjoy it for years to come.

Tourism on the Great Barrier Reef

With over 1.6 million visitors ever year, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s biggest natural attractions. For many tourists, it offers a unique opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and get up close to a remarkable, protected under water existence. Many people combine a visit to the Great Barrier Reef with other famous landmarks or cities in Australia, often flying between destinations or taking part in a cruise holiday to get a feel for this vast country. A cruise, according to leading specialist Planetcruise, allows you to experience the most exciting wildlife on both land and sea. Other visitors to the area arrive by organised trips, hire car or bus. However you arrive at the Great Barrier Reef, in order to get up close to it, you need to head out to sea. Excursions up and down the Queensland coast are numerable, with many people choosing to take part in snorkelling or diving as a way to view the reef. Undeniably, the ocean playground of the Great Barrier Reef makes for an exhilarating experience, but according to dive experts Dive The Reef, it’s important to be aware how your actions and decisions impact reef and other ocean ecosystems.

Look but don’t touch

It might seem tempting to touch the coral reef, but you may damage it – a single touch may actually kill some corals. Removing any part of the reef is illegal. Check that all of your equipment is secure – don’t allow diving or snorkelling items to dangle or drag against the coral. Be especially careful that fins don’t come into contact with the reef. Consider practicing buoyancy control before going near the reef.

Take litter home

Discarded rubbish can pollute fragile reef ecosystems and can kill marine life, so always take your litter home with you. If you’re on an organised tour, and you spot any rubbish out on the reef, collect it or inform your guide. Don’t allow any potentially toxic substances to get into the water. If you’re staying in Queensland then help to reduce pollution whilst you’re there – use less water and support reef-friendly businesses, etc.

Fishing and anchoring

Only fish in areas where this activity is permitted. Don’t feed fish. If you spot any injured marine life or mammals, then report to your guide or to an authority source in the local area. If you take a boat out, always survey the area before anchoring the boat. Anchor away from reef and corals and use mooring buoys, if possible. Alternatively, anchor your boat in sandy or muddy areas. Ensure the outboard engine of the boat isn’t older than five years, as these can cause more pollution to the waters. Be careful when boating in areas where there might be nesting sites. Move the boat slowly in areas where marine animals are present or nesting.

Choice of tour operator

Ensure that the tour operator you choose to visit the Great Barrier Reef is eco-friendly and operates in a low impact, environmentally-conscious manner. Most companies operating tours in the area will be aware of the importance of this, but you should always look out for the Ecotourism logo on their literature or website.

It’s not hard to see why Queensland attracts so many visitors. Boasting the world famous Great Barrier Reef as one of its home treasures, it has earned itself an enviable reputation for being a world class outdoor playground. Amidst the enjoyment of what this region has to offer, it’s also vital that each and every one of us aims to leave as little an impact as possible on this precious ecosystem.

Author: Susie Grayson

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