Our history of protecting the Great Barrier Reef

Saved from the Brink of Destruction

Ear-marked by the government to be mined for limestone and drilled for oil in the 60s, the Great Barrier Reef came very close to being destroyed. A passionate group of locals along the Reef coast banded together to raise awareness, and soon had built enough community support to ensure the protection of this ecological treasure and tourism drawcard.

In one of the greatest environmental success stories of all time, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (then known as the Queensland Littoral Society), founded by Eddie Hegerl, led and built the campaign, which eventually involved numerous groups. People from all over the world joined the campaign to tell the Australian government “NO” to mining and drilling on the Reef.

And they won!

They secured the Reef’s protection through the declaration of the Marine Park in 1974 and its recognition as a World Heritage Area in 1982. Working with conservation partners, AMCS secured the public support that led to full protection of 33.4% of the Reef in “green zones” in 2004, and helped secure a profitable future for the Reef’s thriving ecotourism industry.

The Most Well-Protected Reef in the World

Thanks to the passionate volunteers who led the early campaigns, today, an entire third of the Reef (nearly 345,000 kilometres) remains safely set aside as a Marine Park, which means no mining, drilling, littering, non-approved anchoring, fishing, collecting, or touching of corals is allowed.

The well-regulated eco-tourism industry is limited to access only 0.6 per cent of the Reef’s total area, and contributes thousands of dollars to its protection each year, making the GBR the most well-protected Reef in the world.  The pristine green zones are patrolled by the GBR Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) to ensure environmental laws are respected.

Her Biggest Challenge Yet

Unfortunately, the Reef’s challenges are not over, as our leaders are still making unnecessary and inappropriate development choices which are threatening our Reef more than ever. In particular, the mining and burning of fossil fuels, especially coal, are heating up our atmosphere, our planet and our ocean, causing ocean temperatures to rise beyond what corals can bear.

Once again, the AMCS and Divers for Reef Conservation are calling for people all over the world to join in the campaign and say “NO” to Reef-destroying projects – but this time, the culprits are fossil fuel projects like the Adani coal mine.

It’s not too late to act, but time is critical!

The Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found in its 2018 report that if global temperatures reach just two degrees above pre-industrial levels, 99% of coral Reefs of the world will perish. At current levels of climate pollution, the world is considered on track to reach between three and four degrees Celcius by 2100, which means most corals of the world will likely go extinct much sooner.

The science clearly shows that in order to have a Great Barrier Reef, not to mention a liveable planet, for future generations, we need to transition to 100% renewables by 2030. This will not only secure the 64,000 jobs in Reef tourism but will create tens of thousands of additional jobs in renewable energy projects. Altogether – many more jobs than what are offered by coal mining projects in Queensland.

We call on all our political leaders to stand up for North Queensland businesses and jobs and fight for the future of our Reef.

  • NO new coal, oil or gas projects
  • 100 per cent renewable energy generation and exports by 2030
  • Funding for a just transition and job creation for all fossil fuel industry workers and communities.