Case study on river management: Great Barrier Reef

Hardy Reef, aerial view. Great Barrier Reef & Coral Sea, Australia rel=
Hardy Reef, aerial view. Great Barrier Reef & Coral Sea, Australia
© WWF-Canon / Jürgen FREUND
Thirty-four sub-basins (or catchments) form the ‘basin’ of the Great Barrier Reef.

These cover an area of 370,000km² and extend from the tip of Cape York, south to the Mary River near Hervey Bay. The largest of the developed catchments is the Fitzroy, at just over 150,000km², while the Mossman River is the smallest at just 490km².

Eight catchments are in relatively pristine condition, while the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has set pollutant reduction targets for the remaining 26.

Socio-economic importance
Sugarcane is the major crop grown along the low lying and ecologically sensitive areas adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef.

Grazing land, supporting an estimated 5 million cattle, occupies over 80 per cent of the reef's catchment.

Horticulture (the growing of bananas, other tree crops such as mangos, and vegetable crops such as tomatoes) is growing rapidly along the northern coastline, and aquaculture is also a fast-developing industry.

There are currently 40 licensed aquaculture operations adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, including 25 marine prawn farms covering around 542ha.

The Reef is also a tourism 'hotspot' such that many people living in the coastal towns and cities rely on the Reef for their daily income. However, large-scale tourism also brings with it the impacts of coastal development and associated problems of pollution and sewage disposal.
Area map - click to enlarge / ©: WWF
Area map - click to enlarge
© WWF

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