Protecting And Managing The Great Barrier Reef: Roles And Responsibilities

Who do I work for and where?

Who do I work for and where?

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I currently work for an Australian organization that aims to protect and manage the Great Barrier Reef from further damage and help it to grow back and recover from the extensive damage that occurred in the recent years. The organization focuses on long term sustainability of the Great Barrier Reef following the recommendations of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee that was implemented by the Australian Government (Coles et al. 2015).

What are the roles and responsibilities of the agency?

My role in the agency is to monitor the current trend in the damage of the coral reef and help in the development of policies that can be used to manage the effect of the coral bleaching event in the marine protected areas of the Great Barrier Reef (Authority 2014).

What are the values or interests of the agency?

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The agency is driven by the values of sustainable development and the protection of the marine ecosystem to support sustainable tourism in the area. Its main area of interest is to preserve the Great Barrier Reefs from further damage and ensure its survival for the future generations.

What are the internal and external influences upon the agency?

The internal influence of the agency is mainly from its core values and ideologies of sustainable development and the collective vision of the founders and stakeholders of the agency. The external influence are varied, including the legal and policy framework of the Australian Government, the effect of globalization, commercial activities and tourism on the Great Barrier Reef, recommendations from the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and the public (De Villiers et al. 2016).

What are the specific goals and objectives of the policy issue or the problems to be addressed?

The specific goals and objectives that need to be addressed to protect and manage coral bleaching are:

  • Developing tolerance of the coral reefs from bleaching
  • Promoting recovery of the coral reef
  • Supporting the human adaptive capacity
  • Educating people on the importance of coral reefs

(Selgrath et al. 2016)

How will your plan address these goals or objectives?

The policies would focus on specific aspects that can support the goals/objectives identified above, such as:

  • Management of the local stressors
  • Management of Marine Protected Areas
  • Developing Marine Conservation Agreements
  • Management of Fisheries in the region
  • Reduction of land based impacts on the coral reefs
  • Managing coral disturbances:
  • Promoting restoration of the ecosystem
  • Management for social resilience:
  • Managing Ocean Acidification
  • Designing integrated approaches
  • Adaptive management and Measurement of effectiveness

(Huang and Coelho 2017; Comte and Pendleton 2018)

Opportunities, issues and challenges faced by my sector:

The main challenges faced by my agency are: the local stressors that affect the coral reef health, fishing activities, land based impacts (such as excess sediments from soil erosion, pollution and leaching of fertilizers), disturbances to the coral reef (such as grounding of shipping vessels, coral predators, coral bleaching events, tropical storms and changes in the temperature of the sea water), acidification of the ocean as well as anthropogenic activities (such as illegal trading of coral) (Glynn and Manzello 2015; Pendleton et al. 2016).

What are the roles and responsibilities of the agency?

The opportunities includes support from the Australian Government for the protection and management of the coral reefs, a growing interest in public sectors to safe the Great Barrier Reef and the opportunity of sustainable development and eco-tourism in the area (Cheal et al. 2017).

My main focus is towards the preservation of the Great Barrier Reef that is located along the northern sea coast of Australia that stretches more than 2300 km along the coastline of the state of Queensland and is considered as the largest living organism on the planet (Lance 2016).

Visitor numbers, income and employment issues that are relevant to the context:

The Great Barrier Reef is a very popular tourist attraction and draws more than two million people every year. The reef is estimated to worth 56 billion USD to the Australian Economy according to a report by the Huffington Post  (Pearce 2017). The reef is estimated to be larger than the nation of Italy and employs 50 times more than the total number of employees in the Carmichael Coal Mine in Queensland Australia, amounting to about 64,000 people (39,000 directly and 25,000 indirectly). It is also estimated that the complete destruction of the reef would result in the loss of 33,000 jobs and can increase the rate of unemployment rate of Queensland from 6.1% to 7.4% (Coles et al. 2015).

The main drivers for the issue of protecting the coral reefs includes the economic advantage of saving the reefs as it supports employment of a large number of people), the soci-cultural advantage of preserving an important natural resource and heritage of Australia, demographic advantage of helping the local communities towards a sustainable development, environmental advantage of protecting a biodiversity hotspot, political advantage of getting positive response from the public as well as global media, technological advantage of developing strategies to protect the reef and the advantage to the agency through the the development of a positive image (Kroon et al. 2016; Sheaves et al. 2016).

Studies on the damage to the Great Barrier Reef have revealed the following factors that have contributed to the destruction of the reef:

The coral reefs are very sensitive to changes in the water quality, especially along the factors of the temperature, salinity and nutrient content of water and the presence of pollutants, pesticides and suspended sediments. A significant damage has occurred due to the increase in the temperature and salinity of water and due to increase in pollutants and pesticides that flow into the sea from the land. Mining operations and dumping of wastes have significantly contributed to the bleaching of corals. Studies have shown that the inflow of nutrients from the land (in the form of biological waste) can lead to spread of infectious diseases (such as Skeletal Eroding Band) in the corals. Also increase in the population of phytoplankton can lead to rise in the population of filter feeders which compete with the corals for space (Browne et al. 2015; Wenger et al. 2016).

What are the values or interests of the agency?

Climate changes and intense weather events have resulted in the increase in the temperature and acidification of the oceans that have resulted in massive bleaching events. Studies have shown that due to decrease in the pH of water the ability of corals to secrete Calcium Carbonate have reduced drastically slowing their growth significantly, leading to the collapse of the ecosystem (Palumbi et al. 2014).

Increase in the population of coral predators such as Crown of Thorns Starfish is also causing destruction of the reefs as they prey on the coral polyp, secreting digestive enzymes that damage the tissues of the polyp. Studies show that recent outbreaks have resulted in the destruction of more than 50% of the coral reefs in Australia (Clements and Hay 2018; Sheppard et al. 2017).

A disruption in the marine food chain is caused due to overfishing of ‘keystone’ species like the sharks and Giant Triton have resulted in the increase of algal population in the reefs which have resulted in significant damage to the coral population (McManus 2017).

Shipping activities and shipping accidents (such as grounded vessels) have resulted in the increase in pollutants in the marine water due to discharge of ballast water, biological hazards, and chemicals which can have toxic effect on the corals (Hughes et al. 2015).

Oil spills from oil exploration operations, oil well drilling activities as well as shipping accidents have enormous impact on all marine life forms, including the corals and have resulted in significant damage to the marine ecosystem (Foxwell-Norton and Lester 2017).

Tropical cyclones have also caused ecological misbalance in the coral reefs resulting in fragmentation of the reefs, formation of sediment plumes and reducing the salinity of water. The strong oceanic waves during cyclonic storms have resulted in massive damage to the structure and integrity of the reefs, causing breakage and displacement of the corals (Cheal et al. 2017).

Why is this issue/problem important enough to have a new policy?

The importance of developing policies to safeguard and manage the coral reefs and promoting its recovery and resilience are important under the following considerations:

  • Coral reefs are hotspots of biodiversity and provides a habitat for hundreds of marine species
  • They are a major source of income for the local communities and fishing industries
  • Coral reefs are also an important tourist attraction which also helps to increase employment in the region
  • It protects the coastlines from the impact of tropical storm and powerful waves
  • Helps to fix carbon and nitrogen and is a source of nutrient in marine food chain
  • Helps scientists to study climatic changes over millions of years through the growth patterns of the corals
  • Cultural significance of corals to the local communities
  • The Great Barrier Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage site

(Glynn and Manzello 2015; Coles et al. 2015; Huang and Coelho 2017)

Why is the plan needed?

A plan to support the preservation, management and restoring the coral reefs is vital because it allows to identify and implement strategies and actions to achieve the outcomes. A planned action can help in the systematic implementation of the strategies on a timely and effective manner. Additionally, an effective and strategic plan that helps to protect the corals as well as help in the restoration of the coral reefs can have economic, social, environmental and political advantages. Action plans can also help to coordinate the efforts of coral conservation program, successfully implement the Policies of the Australian Government and UNESCO World Heritage Committee on the protection and management of the Great Barrier Reef as well as help to monitor and assess the success of the plan or policy by comparing the observed results with the expected results. Moreover, an effective action plan also allows scope for implementing further improvements in strategies (Coles et al. 2015; Huang and Coelho 2017).

What are the internal and external influences upon the agency?

What is the role of government?

Reef 2050 Long term Sustainability Plan by the Australian Government:

This serves as a blueprint to support the efforts by the Australian Government to preserve and manage the Great Barrier Reef and focuses on developing Coral Resilience and maintain its Universal Value. It provides a strong decisive action plan and has implemented the following strategies:

  • Restriction in the capital dredging of the ports of Gladstone, Hay Point/Mackay, Abbot Point and Townsville within the restricted port limits.
  • Investing in sustainable development of the reefs which includes funding of 140 Million AUD for Reef Trust and 135 million AUD from the Government of Queensland to improve the water quality and reducing the impact of fisheries on the reef.
  • Managing the development of Gladstone Harbour and Curtis Island
  • Developing best practices for the planning of ports
  • Implementing strict management of shipping activities
  • Addressing the concerns of climatic change and degradation of the environment
  • Implementing independent review boards for Coral Reef management activities
  • Developing progress reports on the conservation work for the coral reefs
  • Improving the quality of water

(Tarte et al. 2017)

  • The Reef trust utilises both funding from the Government and Private sources to improve coastal marine habitats and quality of water in the Great Barrier Reef and its catchment zones.
  • The trust has an investment plan of AUD 444 million to address the main threats to the reef

(Maron et al. 2016)

Great Barrier Reef Gully and Streambank Joint Program

The program focuses on the remediation of the streambank and gully erosion to reduce the impact of the sediments entering the reef. The program provides strategies to tackle the problem of erosion from streambank and gully (Brodie et al. 2017).

This strategy focuses on the prevention of outbreaks of crown of thorns starfish in the Great Barrier Reef, which is a well known coral predator (Hughes et al. 2014).

This plan focuses on the protection of dugong and turtles that live in the coral reef. By protecting these species, outbreaks of coral predators and algal growth can also be minimized and help in the long term recovery of the reef (Richards and Day 2018).

The report card helps to analyze and monitor key variables that affect the reef health such as dissolved inorganic nitrogen, fine sediments, and pollutants in the water. The report also helps in the identification of management improvement strategies through new investments, analysis of time lags, land management approaches and implementing trials before implementation (McCloskey et al. 2017).

The Australian Government also implemented two important legislations that supports reef resiliency and prevents further damage to the reef. The legislations include:

  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Act 2007
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2008
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975
  • Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

(Authority 2014)

The plan aims to improve the safety of shipping activities, protect the environment from shipping related accidents, and identify the shipping risks in the Great Barrier Reef, Torres Strait and Coral Sea regions (Parry and Powell 2017).

Great Barrier Reef Intergovernmental Agreement

This was developed in 2009 by the Australian and Queensland Government to enable collaborative approach between the two governments towards the long term conservation and protection of the coral reef (Hedge et al. 2017).

The zoning plan aims to restrict the commercial activities (such as mining, fishing, dredging, tourism, aquaculture, boating, diving and recreation) to specific zones in the marine park in order to mitigate and limit the impact of these activities on the marine ecosystem surrounding the coral reefs (Emslie et al. 2015).

Who are the stakeholders?

What are the specific goals and objectives of the policy issue or the problems to be addressed?

The main stakeholders are the local communities, fisheries, tourism industry, mining companies, biodiversity conservation organization and the Australian Government.

What are the key trends that influence this issue?

The main trends that influence the issue of destruction of the coral reef are: increase in anthropogenic activities, global climatic change and unsustainable development activities in the region. These factors have increased the bleaching stress and thermal on the reefs, increased population of coral predators, inland pollution, coastal development and overfishing (Authority 2014).

What are the challenges and how can the agency respond?

The main challenges in the protection of the coral reefs is mainly from the rapidly changing quality and temperature of water, overfishing in the coral zones resulting in loss of biodiversity and collapse of ecosystem and inflow of pollutants and sediments to the coral reefs (De Villiers et al. 2016).

To address these challenges the agency can adopt the action plan implemented by the Australian Government, such as Reef 2050 Long term Sustainability Plan, controlling crown of thorns starfish population, Dugong and turtle protection plan and 2050 Water quality improvement plan. The agency can be actively involved in the education of people regading the importance of the reef, helping to minimize the amount of pollution entering marine ecosystem from the land and also monitoring and reporting the coral health from time to time. The agency can also promote the principles of eco tourism that helps to develop appreciation towards the importance of the reef (Authority 2014).

What are possible reasons for government/business intervention?

The main reasons for the intervention include:

  • Protecting the reef from further degradation
  • Promoting the recovery and resilience of the reef
  • Preventing the economic loss due to the destruction of the coral reef
  • Supporting sustainable development

(Glynn and Manzello 2015)

What are the likely desirable effects, benefits and/or outcomes from the plan?

The main benefits from the plan are:

  • Conservation of marine biodiversity
  • Protecting the coastline from damage
  • Supporting the local economy through tourism and fisheries
  • Helping medical research that uses coral reefs to develop new medicines and medical applications

(Lance 2016)

What are some possible policy/plan approaches?

Some of the approaches towards the policy that can be utilized to protect and manage the coral reef include:

  • Educating the stakeholders on the importance of conserving the coral reef
  • Helping to minimize the outbreaks of coral predators
  • Helping in the conservation of dugong and sea turtles
  • Helping to manage local stressors such as minimizing the flow of nutrients,  sediments  and pollutants from land
  • Helping to prevent overfishing in protected zones
  • Regularly monitoring and reporting coral health and water quality change
  • Helping in the restoration of the coral reef
  • Helping local communities to be involved in coral protection and restoration activities
  • Protecting marine herbivores

(Kroon et al. 2016)

Which instruments might be appropriate for your plan?

Several Instruments can be utilized for successful implementation of the plan such as:

  • Advocacy Groups that can help to educate and support the cause of coral conservation programs
  • Monitory Instruments that can ensure inflow of funds to support conservation programs
  • Governmental Instruments like legislations, policies and governmental bodies in the monitoring and implementation of strategic actions
  • Legal Instruments to enforce implement and comply to the policies on coral protection and management.

(Sheaves et al. 2016)

Could several instruments be used more effectively? Why?

Involving multiple instruments is not only a possibility but also a necessity considering the rapid degradation of the coral reef. The combination of different equipments helps to provide a more holistic approach towards the conservation program and help in the overall growth and development of the coral reef (Selgrath et al. 2016).

How will your plan address these goals or objectives?

What types of resources are required?

For successful implementation of the action plan and strategies by the agency, the most important resources needed are funding, human capital and time (Selgrath et al. 2016).

What are the advantages or disadvantages of the policy/plan?

The advantage of the plan is that it can help to increase the image and reputation of the agency in the market, thus helping to increase awareness of the agency’s work in conservation program. This can also help to gain positive support from the governmental bodies and international foundations thereby helping to procure more funds.

The disadvantages of the plan include the need for additional manpower, funding and time, as well as increase in the responsibilities and paperwork for the agency. The plan would also need an active involvement of the agency and can be resource intensive and can adversely affect the profit making agendas.

How can the policy/plan provide direction?

The policy and plan can provide a direction to the conservation activity for protecting and managing the coral reefs in Australia. The policy and plan can outline the goals, desired outcomes, required strategies and analysis of the results, thus helping to strategize the conservation effort in a structured way. Effective planning can help to develop clear objectives that can be understood and followed by the stakeholders, plan a realistic action plan that can direct the management efforts, provides a pervasive strategy that can be implemented in all the levels of management, helps move towards future planning needs,  implement continuous developmental strategies, helps in the decision making process. Overall the plans help to orient individuals towards the correct course of action, helping them understand what needs to be done and in what sequence (Barney 2017).

What is the planning process?

The planning process can involve the following steps:

  • Establishing the goals of the plan
  • Identifying the desired outcomes
  • Identifying and implementing strategies to achieve those outcomes
  • Identifying strategies of measuring outcomes and identify targets for the outcomes
  • Analyzing the results and comparing them with desired outcomes to assess the progression or success
  • Identify scope for further improvement
  • Implement the improvement plan to the existing goals

(Wolf and Floyd 2017)

How will it be done?

The planning can be done with the help of information based on research and statistical data. Meetings can be held to determine the goals and desired outcomes of the program and through a focus on the results. Also it is important to identify the context, steps, and required resources and properly documenting each of the steps can be used to plan the program (Wolf and Floyd 2017).

Who will be consulted?

In the planning process, it is important to consult with the key stakeholders, governmental authorities and local communities to ensure its success (Gustafsson et al. 2015).

Opportunities, issues and challenges faced by my sector:

How will the plan/policy be implemented?

The implementation of the plan can be done through proper allocation of resources, communicating the plan to the stakeholders and involved personnel, monitoring the progress of the planning process, adjusting the plan to changing needs and support employees to follow the plan (Gustafsson et al. 2015).

How will it be reviewed?

The outcome of the plan can be reviewed by comparing the outcomes of the plan to the desired outcomes. Activities such as meetings, discussion board and progress reports can be used to review the plan (Papke-Shields et al. 2017).

How will the success or lack of success be determined?

Success of lack thereof for the plan can be determined by comparing the actual outcomes of the program with the desired outcomes (Papke-Shields et al. 2017).


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