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Project 4.8.6 - Analysis of recreational and tourism use and impact on the Great Barrrier Reef for managing sustainable tourism

Project Leader and Host Organisation

Professor Bruce Prideaux, James Cook University

Project Description and Objectives

For detailed descriptions of the outputs for this project for Year 4 (2009/2010) of the MTSRF Research Programme, see the Annual Research Plan.

This project includes determination of the social values of key marine species, particularly large fish around tourist facilities, and identification of key trends and drivers of visitor patterns in the Great Barrier Reef and an economic analysis of the value of no-take zones to tourism in the Great Barrier Reef.

In addition, the program will identify annual visitor usage patterns of the Great Barrier Reef to enable the identification of key trends and drivers of visitor patterns and economic impacts of visitation. Impacts of tourism and visitation to critical reef sites and sustainable levels of visitation to these sites will be assessed. This Project will provide link with the inshore biodiversity project (Project 4.8.7) on Irukandii movement and habits, and the risk of human encounters to irukandji and other marine stingers that may influence tourist visitation.

The project is linked to Project 4.8.5 (to understand and document the influence of the 2003 Great Barrier Reef Zoning Plan on use (tourism, recreation, and fishing) of the GBRWHA and users) and Project 4.9.2 (Sustainable nature based tourism - planning and management). There is potential for the project to be linked to other projects within the MTSRF program

Key objectives of this project are to:

  • Identify relative social and economic values of key marine species, particularly large fish around tourist facilities;

  • Evaluate management issues, risks and threats to identified high-value species to the GBR tourism industry; and

  • Identify key trends and drivers of visitor patterns, including assessment of the economic impacts of visitation and comparison of the GBR with international reef tourist attractions.

Major Project Outputs

The Annual Research Plans, or ARPs, outline the specific tasks, products, budgets and staff for each research project within each of the Research Themes and Programs of the MTSRF.  The ARPs also outline the key deliverables, or 'project milestones' (e.g. major reports, journal articles, communications products) to be achieved.

An ARP is developed for each operating year of the MTSRF (2006-2010).

Details of this and previous years' outputs from this project are included in each of the Annual Research Plans

Key marine species of the Great Barrier Reef: Issues, impacts and sustainable management

(22 March 2010) Australian populations of iconic marine wildlife species (e.g. marine turtles, sharks and rays, large fishes such as potato cod, Maori wrasse and Queensland grouper, whales and dolphins) are under pressure from a range of human related threats. These marine wildlife species are important resources for Reef tourism operators and a significant proportion of tourists' expenditure can be attributed to sightings of these animals and interactions with them. Tourism has the potential to contribute to the conservation of these species whilst providing economic benefits to the local community; however it must be managed to be ecologically sustainable.

A MTSRF-funded James Cook University research project is investigating the social and economic values of iconic marine wildlife species to inform the sustainable management of tourism in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Part of this investigation includes an assessment of the current and potential threats to these highly valued reef species, including any impacts of tourism and evaluation of management tools to help minimise them. To help with this, we are seeking input from experienced Reef tourism industry representatives from Port Douglas, Cairns, Townsville and the Whitsundays to help identify (i) the Reef species most valuable to their operation, (ii) their concerns about impacts and management of these species and their habitats, and (iii) research and management needs to address such impacts.

During March and April 2010, researchers will be conducting interviews with experienced staff from a range of Reef tourism operations in these areas. The issues that arise from these interviews will then be summarised and discussed in a scoping workshop to be held in Cairns in late May 2010, involving industry, management agencies, Reef researchers and other key stakeholders. The outcomes of this workshop will be reported to the participants, Reef managers and the Australian Government via the Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF), and will help to identify key areas for new research and issues for the sustainable management of tourism based on these Reef species.

Download further information [PDF 202Kb]

Further Information

Dr David Souter
GBR Program Research Manager
Reef and Rainforest Research Centre Limited
Tel: (07) 4781 6013


Reef Tourism Barometers

Quarterly reports, or Tourism 'Barometers' for the Great Barrier Reef form a series presented by James Cook University and the MTSRF on reef tourism in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Access and download quarterly Reef Tourism Barometers since November 2006.

Social and Economic Values of Minke Whales in the Great Barrier Reef

Project 4.8.6 JCU Birtles, A. (2007) June Milestone Report
A project progress report - June 2007. Project 4.8.6 Objectives (a) and (c). [pdf 415.2 kb]


Project 4.8.6 JCU Birtles, A. (2007) June Milestone Report - Coinvestment Component
A project progress report - June 2007. Coinvestment Component: Condition and trends of dwarf minke whale populations in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. [pdf 268.4 kb]


Project 4.8.6 JCU Birtles, A. (2008) June Milestone Report
A project progress report - June 2008. Project 4.8.6 Objectives (a) and (c). [pdf 453.6 kb]


All Content © Reef & Rainforest Research Centre 2006