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Caring for the Reef

The Reef is a fragile wonderland that supports delicate corals, abundant fish life and is home to a wide range of other marine life. When visiting the area, please observe the following basic rules to ensure its protection.

Dispose of rubbish

Keep the Reef beautiful. Throwing rubbish into the sea degrades the environment.

It is an offence for boats to discharge oil, fuel, garbage, glass, metal or plastics into Queensland waters, and heavy fines apply.

Help protect the Reef by disposing your rubbish in the correct manner. If you take it in, bring it back. Report any suspected illegal dumping to Martime Safety Queensland.

Anchor with care

Anchors and chains wreck coral by:

  • dropping onto it
  • dragging across it
  • wrapping around it and breaking bits off.

Coral can also be wrecked when a vessel grounds when the wind changes and the tide ebbs.

All these activities damage the structure of the reef and kill coral. Years can pass before coral growth recovers. In some instances it will never return to its original condition.

Follow these guidelines when boating in Reef areas:

  • try to anchor in sand or mud away from coral
  • motor toward the anchor when hauling in
  • use a lightweight reef pick with heavy plastic tubing over the anchor chain wherever possible
  • use public moorings where installed. Read the information attached to the mooring and ensure the mooring is suitable for your vessel and the weather conditions
  • drift across reefs rather than anchor when fishing.

Reef markers

Reef markers and public moorings have been placed in some fringing reefs in popular bays in the Whitsundays where inconsiderate anchoring in the past has damaged coral.

Areas of reef are marked by a line of white, pyramid-shaped buoys with a blue Marine Parks symbol. Anchoring is not allowed inshore from the line. Entry into the no-anchoring area is permitted when approaching or leaving a mooring or a beach. Coral should not be damaged. Markers must not be used to moor vessels but can be used as diver descent lines.

As further no-anchoring areas are identified, they will be marked with reef markers. Some places are protected naturally and do not require markers. Care should be taken when anchoring near any coral.

Public moorings

To further reduce coral damage and to provide a service to the boating community, the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has placed public moorings at several sites in the Whitsundays area, Capricorn-Bunker Group and Keppel Islands.

Public moorings are marked by blue buoys with Marine Parks colour-coded notices. Each notice states the limits of use for that mooring. Vessels must not be left unattended and must not be used in wind strengths above 24 knots. Mooring is limited to two hours in any eight hours.

Please contact us or the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for detailed information on the location and conditions of use of reef markers and public moorings.

Fish responsibly

Take only what you need!
As our population continues to grow, increasing pressure is placed upon fish stocks as there is increasing competition for a limited supply of fish.

  • Check the zoning plan to see if fishing is allowed.
  • Check with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and obey any bag limits, size limits, tackle restrictions and seasonal closures.
  • Take only what you need for your immediate requirements and leave fish for the future.
  • If you intend keeping a fish, remove it from the hook or net quickly and humanely. Careful handling of fish caught also gives better quality table fish.
  • Carefully return all undersized fish to the water quickly to minimise injury or damage and to give them a better chance of survival.
  • Avoid fishing in areas where fish feeding occurs or where fish species gather to spawn.
  • Report any fish kills by phoning the pollution hotline.
  • Report any tagged fish to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
  • Report any suspected unlawful fishing activities to Fish Watch.

Don't feed the fish

Most food, particularly bread and meat, is generally not suitable for fish and may damage their health.

Be aware that feeding fish may result in aggressive behaviour in some species, and can be dangerous to people in the water. Commercial tour operators are required to have a permit from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and to follow strict guidelines for feeding fish.

Take care when diving and snorkelling

Most divers and snorkellers cause little noticeable damage to corals.

Damage occurs most commonly from fins. If you are inexperienced, try to practise snorkelling away from living coral. Be aware of where your fins are and avoid touching anything with them.

Don't rest or stand on coral. If you must stand up, make sure it is on sand or use rest stations.

Observe animals rather than handling them directly, and avoid blocking the path of free swimming animals. The best practice is to look but don't touch. Some marine organisms can give painful and dangerous stings.

Don't collect coral

Collecting coral, whether dead or alive, is totally prohibited in the marine park. Check the zoning plan to see if other types of collecting are allowed and what conditions apply.

Report dead, sick or injured wildlife

Contact us to report:

  • dead, sick or injured marine animals (e.g. turtles, dugong, whales and large numbers of seabirds)
  • fish kills.

Your prompt action enables the department to determine the cause of death and to take action to avoid further deaths.

Last updated
2 August 2018