The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park protects a large part of Australia's Great Barrier Reef from damaging activities. Fishing and the removal of artifacts or wildlife (fish, coral, sea shells etc) is strictly regulated, and commercial shipping traffic must stick to certain specific defined shipping routes that avoid the most sensitive areas of the park.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) are the administrators of the park. They issue permits for various forms of use of the marine park, monitor usage in the park to ensure compliance with park management. The GBRMPA is funded by Commonwealth Government Appropriations that includes an environmental management charge levied on the permit-holders passengers. Currently this is AUD$4.50 per day per passenger (to a maximum of $13.50 per trip).
As many species of the Great Barrier Reef are migratory, many international, national, and interstate conventions or pieces of legislation must be taken into account when strategies for conservation are made.
Some international conventions that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park must follow are: the Bonn Convention, RAMSAR (for the Bowling Green Bay National Park site), CITES, JAMBA and CAMBA. Some national legislation that the Park must follow are: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975, Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development, National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity, Australia’s Oceans Policy, National Strategy for the Conservation of Australian Species and Communities Threatened with Extinction. Some state legislation that the Park must follow are: Nature Conservation Act 1992, Marine Parks Act 1982, Fisheries Act 1994, Queensland Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 1994.
For example, the Queensland Government has enacted several plans attempting to regulate fishing. The East Coast Trawl Management Plan 1999 aimed to regulate trawling through limiting the times when trawling is permitted and restricting gear used. The Fisheries (Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery) Management Plan 2003 aimed at reducing the annual commercial catch to 1996 levels, disallowing fishing when the fish are spawning and increasing the minimum legal size of fish.
The Great Barrier Reef was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981. Up until 1999, there were four main zones in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. They were the "Far Northern", "Cairns", "Central" and "Mackay/Capricorn" sections. These zoning sections were created between 1983-1987. Another section, the "Gumoo Woojabuddee" section was declared in 1998. Each section had its own zoning plan. The Great Barrier Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003 superseded all previous zoning plans, coming into effect on 1 July 2004.
In July 2004, a new zoning plan was brought into effect for the entire Marine Park, and has been widely acclaimed as a new global benchmark for the conservation of marine ecosystems. The rezoning was based on the application of systematic conservation planning techniques, using the MARXAN software. On 1 July 2004 the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park became the largest protected sea area in the world when the Australian Government increased the areas protected from extractive activities (such as fishing) from 4.6% to 33.3% of the park. As of 2006, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument is the largest protected marine area in the world. The management committee draws inspiration from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's management strategies.
The current method of zoning is called the "Representative Areas Program", which chooses "typical" areas of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. They can then be protected in "Green Zones" (no-take zones). The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area has been divided into 70 bioregions, of which 30 are reef bioregions, and 40 are non-reef bioregions.
In 2006, a review was undertaken of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975. Some recommendations of the review are that there should be no further zoning plan changes until 2013, and that every five years, a peer-reviewed Outlook Report should be published, examining the health of the Great Barrier Reef, the management of the Reef, and environmental pressures.
In early 2007, the GBRMPA was one of three nominees for the Destination Award in the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Tourism for Tomorrow Awards.