28 Apr 2023


The Great Barrier Reef is the heart of Queensland and one of Australia’s most iconic tourist destinations. Its vibrant waters are home to an incredible array of unique marine species, including turtles, dolphins, dugongs and more than 1,600 species of fish. It’s also a hub for people and a vibrant, bustling centre for coastal communities and tourism.

However, the Reef is facing serious threats, including climate change, water pollution and commercial gill nets. 

Thankfully, everyone can help make a difference. 

Here are ten ways you can help protect the Great Barrier Reef and the iconic species that call it home.

1. Sign the petition to help create a Net-Free Reef

WWF-Australia has launched a petition to create a Net-Free Reef. We need as many signatures as possible to show the Queensland Government that Australians are committed to protecting the Great Barrier Reef by removing deadly gill nets.

Commercial gill net fishing can occur in more than 60% of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, threatening the unique species that live in its waters. The gill nets up to 600m long hang along the ocean floor, trapping more than the fish they’re intended to catch. Other wildlife, including turtles, dugongs and dolphins, can get entangled and killed in these nets.

You can help protect our precious marine life. Sign the petition now and show your support for a Reef free from commercial gill nets.

2. Be a champion supporting Australia to become a leader in climate solutions 

Climate change is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef, and urgent action is needed from all countries to drive down greenhouse gas emissions this decade, replacing fossil fuels with renewables as quickly and fairly as possible. Australia can do so much more! To do our fair share, Australia must commit to a climate policy consistent with holding warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Our current commitments don’t yet harness Australia’s world-leading renewables potential. Let your local member of parliament know you support faster climate action now to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

Coral reef and sea life.
Coral reef and sea life. © Shutterstock / Borisoff / WWF

3. Be a sustainable tourist when visiting the Reef 

What better way to learn about the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef than to see it yourself? And it doesn’t have to cost nature either - there are many ways you can be a sustainable tourist on the Reef. Many of the tour operators on the Reef are eco-certified, so make sure to check before booking. Wear Reef-safe sunscreen, follow the regulations and be respectful of the Reef and animals that call it home. And as always, leave no trace!  

4. Reduce your plastic use 

Australians create an average of 59kg of single-use plastic waste per person per year. Of all the plastic we consume, we only recover around 14%. Up to 145,000 tonnes of plastic end up in the environment as a result, with devastating consequences for marine life.

It’s essential to stay hydrated when you’re out on the Reef, so be sure to take your reusable water bottle (and coffee cup, and bag!). We don’t need more plastic in our oceans and we should avoid its use altogether where we can. 

5. Buy responsibly sourced seafood

Seafood is a crucial source of protein for 3.3 billion people around the globe. But to ensure we have seafood for years to come, it’s important that we know where it comes from and how it’s caught or farmed. Ask questions about the sourcing practices of the fish you purchase, and choose varied, in-season seafood over overfished or endangered species. 

An easy way to buy responsibly in the supermarket is to look for the blue Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or green Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) ticks of approval on the product’s labelling. These certifications mean that seafood has been harvested in a more responsible way that reduces the impact on our oceans. You can go one step further by only supporting brands and retailers that sell responsibly sourced seafood.

6. Change your habits at home

When we clean our clothes, wash our dishes, or scrub the bathroom, the products we use get washed down the drain and end up in our oceans. By using only eco-friendly cleaning products, you’ll ensure that the products that do end up in our oceans cause as little harm as possible to our marine wildlife and waterways. Flora and Fauna have a great range to get you started!

Recycling responsibly is another way to make a positive impact at home, and it’s about more than just sorting your paper from your plastic. We need to reduce our use to keep as much waste out of landfill as possible. Donate what you can, and for those things that you can’t, dispose of them responsibly at your local council’s e-waste drop-offs and hard waste collection sites. 

Here are some tips on how to take your recycling to the next level.

Dugong with calf swimming in Australia
Dugong with calf swimming in Australia © naturepl.com / Doug Perrine / WWF

7. Adopt a turtle 

The Great Barrier Reef is home to six of the world’s seven marine turtle species. But every day, turtles are threatened by pollution, losing habitat to coastal developments, commercial fishing and climate change. 

You can help protect this iconic species by adopting a turtle today. Your generosity will symbolise your support for conversation and animal advocacy, ensuring our magnificent turtles remain in our waters forever.

8. Clean up nature around you

If you’re looking for fresh air and that sweet feeling of making a difference, head out for a walk and collect the rubbish which could be washed down a drain and end up in our waterways. You don’t need to wait for Clean Up Australia Day. There’s never a wrong time to clean up in your local area. 

Every piece of plastic or rubbish you remove is a piece of plastic or rubbish that won’t hurt our wildlife. 

9. Educate yourself and others 

Despite most Australians being concerned about the threats to the Great Barrier Reef, less than 30% know that commercial gill nets are an environmental problem. 

Many communities, from anglers to tourism operators, rely on the Reef for their livelihoods. If you want to make a difference for the Reef and the people who rely on it – not to mention the animals that live in it – educate yourself and then share the information with the people in your life. If we all understand the importance of the Reef and what we can do to help it, we’ll be in a far better place to do so.

10. Reduce your emissions

Next time you’re heading out, think about how to take the most sustainable route. Public transport or carpooling is a great way to reduce the number of cars on our roads. If you’re able to, consider walking or riding to your destination. Every car off the road reduces the amount of carbon that ends up in our atmosphere. By minimising your carbon footprint, you’ll not only help the Reef, you’ll also help the whole planet! 

We can all make small, everyday changes for the benefit of the environment. Along with societal changes and government regulation, we can make a huge difference in protecting the Great Barrier Reef. Together, we can ensure that the Reef is around for decades to come in a state that we and future generations can all enjoy and benefit from.

What will you do to help protect the Reef?