Coral reef around Mast Head Island, Queensland, Australia. / ©: WWF / James Morgan
The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) stretches 2,300 kilometres along the Queensland coast and includes over 2,900 reefs, and around 940 islands and cays.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is 345,000 square kilometres in size, five times the size of Tasmania or larger that the United Kingdom and Ireland combined!

The reef is immensely diverse. It is home to more than 1,500 species of fish, 411 types of hard coral, one-third of the world’s soft corals, 134 species of sharks and rays, six of the world’s seven species of threatened marine turtles, and more than 30 species of marine mammals, including the vulnerable dugong.

Add to that stunning marine suite as many as 3,000 molluscs and thousands of different sponges, worms and crustaceans, 630 species of echinoderms (starfish and sea urchins) and 215 bird species, of which 22 are seabirds.

The GBR is listed under all four natural World Heritage criteria for its outstanding universal value.

A natural investment

Protecting the reef has benefits beyond conservation - it is also an investment in the continued security of coastal communities and provides significant benefits to the Australian economy.

Reef industries, such as tourism and fishing, which contribute approximately $5.4 billion annually to the Australian economy and support about 69,000 jobs, are reliant on a healthy environment.

Protecting our marine wonderland

Historically, the GBR was regarded as a well protected, pristine wonderland – a safe haven for delicate corals and abundant fish. But as scientists came to understand more about its complexities, a different picture emerged. They discovered that poor fishing practices, pollution and coral bleaching exacerbated by increased sea temperatures due to global warming are all seriously threatening the reef’s future.