The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system. Covering an area the size of Italy, it is composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi). The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland from the top of Cape York south to Lady Elliot Island (just north of mainland Bundaberg).
A majority of the reef is managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) for multiple uses (fishing, diving, recreational boating, etc). The Reef was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981 and is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
The Great Barrier Reef is under pressure. In 2017 there was a second year of mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. This was unprecedented. However, with a Reef the size of Italy, composed of complex and diverse habitats, even events of this magnitude do not affect the reef equally. That is one of the reasons why you might be reading divergent commentary about Reef health in the media. Some areas are healthy and beautiful, some are showing clear signs of stress with symptoms like coral bleaching and disease; and some areas have been severely impacted by two years of back to back bleaching, cyclones or chronic water quality issues. As a system, the Reef needs our help.
Reef Check monitors more than 40 sites located in 4 main regions of the coast of Queensland - Cairns/Port Douglas, Townsville, the Whitsunday Islands and the Southern Great Barrier Reef (Heron Island). Citizen science, community engagement and locally based actions to support reef resilience are all identified as important strategies for managing the Great Barrier Reef. We agree! Importantly, these actions close to home must be coupled with quick and notable action on climate change to protect our global icon.