The Great Barrier Reef, the most extensive structure built by living organisms, is the only life form on Earth visible from the moon. This natural wonder and World Heritage site captivates both overseas visitors and Australians alike. As the world's largest coral reef, it comprises 2,500 individual reefs and stretches over 2,000 km from the northern tip of the continental shelf near Papua New Guinea to Bundaberg in the south.
The Great Barrier Reef's 540 islands fall into two distinct categories: continental and coral cay. With a landmass large enough to contain nearly five Japans, seven Britains, and half the size of Texas, there's undoubtedly a lot to see!
Its ecosystem supports the highest concentration of life on this planet, with its resident marine life including 1,500 fish species, 350 coral types, 4,000 mollusc species, and 10,000 sponge species. Additionally, the reef serves as a breeding ground for humpback whales, sea turtles, dugongs, and seabirds. Hundreds of algae species, including seaweeds, also thrive on the reef as an essential part of the system.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) was established in 1975. Recognising its universal value, the Great Barrier Reef was inscribed on the World Heritage list in October 1981 and is now managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. GBRMPA aims to increase people's understanding of the reef and ensure its most enjoyable and least harmful use under a marine park permit system.
Apart from its natural and ecological importance, the Great Barrier Reef holds cultural and historical significance. Human interaction with the reef began thousands of years ago, extending to the first visits to Australia by European explorers in the 17th and 18th centuries, and continuing through World War II and more recent times.
Serving as the most significant attraction for visitors to North Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef also underpins local commercial and recreational fishing industries.