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Reef tourism strategy to tackle a changing climate

Reef tourism strategy to tackle a changing climate
August 17, 2009

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Queensland Tourism Industry Council and Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, have launched a forward thinking and decisive strategy to address the potential impacts of climate change on both the health of the Great Barrier Reef and Australia's $5.1 billion Reef tourism industry.

Launching the strategy at the Tourism Futures Conference on the Gold Coast, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chairman Dr Russell Reichelt explained that the Great Barrier Reef is of immense value economically, environmentally and socially to both Australia and the world.

Dr Reichelt stated "as one of the most complex and diverse ecosystems in the world, the Great Barrier Reef is not only a world renowned World Heritage Area, it is also one of the most aspirational national and international tourism destinations.

"There is no doubt that the Great Barrier Reef is facing its single biggest threat - climate change."

Dr Reichelt said the Reef marine tourism industry has recognised that the time to act to mitigate and adapt to climate change is now, adding "I am extremely pleased to announce the launch of this Great Barrier Reef Tourism Climate Change Action Strategy that has resulted from a firm commitment from the Great Barrier Reef marine tourism industry, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and other industry and government partners.

"It will both mitigate the industry's climate change footprint and encourage visitors to this magnificent natural wonder to offset and minimise their own carbon and environmental footprints.

"This strategy has seen the Great Barrier Reef marine tourism industry firmly step up to the plate to help ensure not only a resilient and healthy Reef but a vibrant and healthy industry into the future. This strategy will stimulate a range of actions, from site enhancement activities to adaptive management, from marine tourism staff training to risk management planning, led by both government and industry.

"This is further evidence that the Great Barrier Reef marine tourism industry is a world leader in both protecting the environment and ensuring a sustainable industry in the face of a changing climate."

Queensland Tourism Industry Council Chief Executive Daniel Gschwind said as a community and as an industry we have a fundamental interest in protecting one of our greatest natural assets, commenting that "the Queensland Tourism Industry Council is fully committed to working with industry and government to keep the Reef healthy and keep the industry at the leading edge of sustainability.

Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO) Executive Director Col McKenzie said AMPTO was vitally concerned about the effects of climate change on the magnificent Great Barrier Reef and the flow on effects to our businesses.

McKenzie added "the Action Strategy provides us with a strategic way forward so that we can mitigate our carbon footprint, adapt our business practices and identify the opportunities that will occur.

"The Action Strategy will be critical to the long term survival of the marine tourism industry (as well as the continued health of the Great Barrier Reef)."

Queensland Tourism Minister Peter Lawlor said the new climate change strategy was an essential step forward in the management of one of the worldâs most precious natural environments, stating "the Great Barrier Reef is an iconic natural wonder and is integral to Queenslandâs tourism industry.

"It is critical we do all we can to protect and sustain its natural beauty.

"The Great Barrier Reef Marine Tourism Climate Change Action Strategy provides ways for our tourism industry to actively respond to climate change and help decrease the impact tourism activities have on the local environment.

"Tourism Queensland has worked with GBRMPA and other partners to develop this comprehensive strategy and will continue to support its implementation."

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Images courtesy of Fitzroy Island.

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