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«A review of recreational activities undertaken in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Recreation Review Stage 1) Madeline Fernbach R E S E A R C H P U B L ...»

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R E S E A R C H P U B L I C AT I O N N O. 9 3

A review of recreational activities undertaken

in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

(Recreation Review Stage 1)

Madeline Fernbach

R E S E A R C H P U B L I C AT I O N N O. 9 3

A review of recreational activities

undertaken in the Great Barrier Reef

Marine Park

(Recreation Review Stage 1)

Madeline Fernbach

Social and Economic Information and Research Unit

Research and Monitoring Coordination, Science, Technology and Information Group PO Box 1379 Townsville QLD 4810 Telephone: (07) 4750 0700 Fax: (07) 4772 6093 Email: info@gbrmpa.gov.au www.gbrmpa.gov.au © Commonwealth of Australia 2008 Published by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority ISBN: 978 1876945 79 4 (pdf) This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without the prior written permission of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry :

Fernbach, Madeline.

A review of recreational activities undertaken in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park [electronic resource] :

recreation review stage 1 / prepared by Madeline Fernbach.

ISBN: 978 1876945 79 4 (pdf) Research publication (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority : Online) ; no. 93.


Recreation--Queensland--Great Barrier Reef.

Recreation areas--Queensland--Great Barrier Reef.

Tourism--Queensland--Great Barrier Reef.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Qld.)--Recreational use.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.



The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Australian Government. While reasonable effort has been made to ensure that the contents of this publication are factually correct, the Commonwealth does not accept responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of the contents, and shall not be liable for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the contents of this publication.

Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to:

Director, Communication and Education Group 2-68 Flinders Street PO Box 1379 TOWNSVILLE QLD 4810 Australia Phone: (07) 4750 0700 Fax: (07) 4772 6093 info@gbrmpa.gov.au

Comments and inquiries on this document are welcome and should be addressed to:

Director, Science Technology Information Group info@gbrmpa.gov.au www.gbrmpa.gov.au Table of Contents Executive Summary


Project Aims

Literature Review

Key questions that need answering

A. Recreation-themed questions

The definition of “recreation”

Who are the independent recreational visitors?

Characteristics of independent recreational visitors

Dimensions of recreation

Boating data

Fishing data

Sources of information about the Marine Park

Other recreation in the Marine Park

How is recreation changing?

B. Management-themed questions

What are the potential areas for tension with managing recreational visitor activity?

How can we get to independent recreational visitors to inform, educate and engage them?

Gap analysis

Market segmentation

Demographic information

Recreational vessel use

Infrastructure information

Stage 2: Proposed projects


List of Figures Figure 1 Age distribution of recreational fishers

Figure 2 Years of experience in recreational fishing

Figure 3 Education level of recreational fishers

Figure 4 Employment type of recreational fishers

Figure 5 Current sources of information about the Marine Park

Figure 6 Recreational vessel registrations 2002-2007

Figure 7 Numbers of recreational vessel registrations by size, December 2007.............. 22 Figure 8 Patterns of recreational vessel registrations by size (z score)

Figure 9 Recreational vessel registrations and population over time

Executive Summary

It is estimated that over 4.9 million recreational visits are made to the Great Barrier Reef each year. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s goal is to provide for the protection, wise use, understanding and enjoyment of the Great Barrier Reef in perpetuity through the care and development of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (the ‘Marine Park’). To assist in achieving this goal it is important to gain a better understanding of recreational users of the Marine Park. While there is a broad body of knowledge about managed, or tourist visits, little has been done to identify who independent recreational visitors are, where they go, what they do and why.

This paper reviews the published reports, data and literature relating to recreation in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to determine what knowledge exists about independent recreational activity within the Marine Park. Specific knowledge gaps are identified and research questions are proposed to fill these gaps.

Recreation was defined for the purposes of the paper as an independent visit for fun to the Marine Park. The majority of the research about the Marine Park related to boating and fishing. Over time there has been an increase in population of local resident visitors adjacent to the Marine Park, an increase in numbers of recreational vessel registrations and an increase in the size of boats registered, while a decrease in number of recreational fishers was identified. With respect to management, a number of areas of tension were identified, particularly centred around potential and current conflicting use of the Marine Park by different cohorts of users; the issues relating to varying levels of regulation for different Park users; and provision of infrastructure.

The main gaps in the information identified included the need for profiling independent recreational visitors through market segmentation; the knowledge, motivation and expectations of independent recreational visitors; the geographic spread of recreational activity in and around the Marine Park; and the changing use of boats and other recreational vessels. Projects are proposed that addressed these gaps.


It is estimated that over 4.9 million recreational visits are made to the Great Barrier Reef each year (Norris, Moscardo & McCoy 2003). The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s (GBRMPA) goal is to provide for the protection, wise use, understanding and enjoyment of the Great Barrier Reef in perpetuity through the care and development of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (the ‘Marine Park’). To assist in achieving this goal it is important to gain a better understanding of recreational users of the Marine Park.

While there is a broad body of knowledge about managed, or tourism visitors, such as that created by Tourism Research Australia, little has been done to identify who independent recreational visitors are, where they go, what they do and why.

At present, measuring recreational activities is hampered by the variability in the published literature with respect to what is considered to be ‘recreation’ and how this relates to tourism. Currently information about recreational activity is collected by GBRMPA in two ways: (i) monitoring data such as the number of registrations of recreational vessels or the number of people who pay the Environment Management Charge; (ii) ad hoc surveys undertaken by GBRMPA or other organisations.

It is the purpose of this project to review the research effort around recreation in the Marine Park to establish what is already known about recreation; and then to identify what needs to be undertaken further to answer questions that are of importance to stakeholders who manage the Marine Park.

Project Aims There are two stages to the project. The aim of the first stage of this project is to undertake a detailed literature review to determine what research has been done previously and to evaluate methods used and analyse results and data found. During this stage the term ‘recreation’ needs to be defined and research questions developed. Specific knowledge gaps and research questions are identified to answer these questions.

The goals of Stage 1 of this project are:

1. To define the term ‘recreation’ and its parameters in relation to Marine Park management

2. To provide insight into recreational activity occurring in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

3. To inform the Outlook Report about trends over time of recreational activity

4. To identify gaps in knowledge about recreation and sources of information relating to this.

The draft Stage 2 goals will be:

1. To develop a strategy to collect required information on recreation arising out of Stage 1 findings

2. If possible based on the literature review, to identify measures for recreational activity

3. To trial data collection to support the information collection strategy described above

4. To establish regular monitoring systems and processes for collection of relevant information.

These goals will be covered in a separate project proposal.

Literature ReviewKey questions that need answering

In this section, the important questions relevant for management of the Marine Park are explored. To this end, consultations with the Tourism and Recreation Reef Advisory Committee (TRRAC) and senior representatives of GBRMPA operational and support groups were undertaken. The key questions extracted from this series of consultations are provided below and form the structure of the literature review.

A. Recreation-themed questions The definition of “recreation” Under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975, a ‘tourist’ is defined as “a person who is in the Marine Park principally for the purpose of recreation (which may include fishing or collecting) (section 3A(9)). In the literature relating to tourism and recreation in the Marine Park, recreation is defined in a number of ways and it is useful to explore the definition of recreation using five dimensions that cover the what, the where, the when, the how, and the who of recreational activity. These categories consist of (i) activity-based definitions; (ii) independent versus managed types of activity; (iii) local resident visitors versus non-local visitors; (iv) duration of activity; and (v) self-definition.

(i) Activity-based definitions The literature that assumes “recreation” consists of particular activities often provides a list of activities that are generally subsumed into Jennings’ (1998) list: boating, recreational fishing, SCUBA diving, kayaking, tourist activity, spearfishing, snorkelling, sightseeing, camping or other, non-specified activities. The latter commonly include activities that can be undertaken either through a tourism operator or independently, such as fishing or snorkelling. Scherl, Valentine and Millard (2000) describe the range of

recreational visitors as:

• Yachties (visitors who get to an island by private or hired boats and anchor nearby the island)

• Campers (visitors who stay overnight, sleep in tents, and get to the camping destination with regular tour operators or by chartered boats but, notably, do not include those who travel via their own means of transport)

• Day trippers (visitors who go on tour operations for one day only).

(ii) Independent vs. managed types of trip Some definitions of recreation are dependent on the nature of the transport used to access the Marine Park (Moscardo & Ormsby 2004; Ormsby et al. 2004). Ormsby and others suggest a more useful distinction is between ‘commercial tour visitors’ who access the Great Barrier Reef with a commercial tour operator (thereby having access managed by a tour operator); and ‘independent visitors’ who access the Marine Park with their own transport or with transport owned by their family or friends. This definition draws indirectly on the belief that independent visitors are financially independent of tourism operators, a theme that is reflected in the commercial types of definitions described below. This definition is important for economic analysis and information purposes.

The GBRMPA monitors tourist visits through the collection of an Environment Management Charge (EMC) which is payable by all individuals who pay a tourism or charter operator in order to access the Marine Park (e.g. tour of the Reef on a cruise boat) (GBRMPA STIG 2006). Thus, all ‘managed’ visits to the Marine Park are monitored through the EMC. In contrast, ‘independent’ visits are not monitored to the same degree.

The GBRMPA monitors independent recreational activity primarily through monitoring the number of registrations of recreational vessels (see report GBRMPA STIG 2006).

Recreational boats are those used for the purposes of recreation and not for any type of business, trade or commerce (Maritime Safety Queensland 2007a). In contrast, commercial and fishing vessels are those “used in conjunction with any type of business, trade or commerce” and can include fishing ships, tourist or charter boats, work boats, ferries, water taxis, dive boats and sailing school boats (Maritime Safety Queensland 2007b). Commercial vessel registration data is available also but is not considered in this paper.

Jennings (1998) included an element of independent boat use as part of his definition of recreation, however he also included a description of a range of activities he considered to be ‘recreation’ including recreational fishing, boating, SCUBA diving, kayaking, spear fishing, snorkelling, sightseeing, camping and ‘tourist activity’. Thus for Jennings, tourism is a subset of recreation, consistent with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975.

Others also consider recreation to include all non-commercial or independent activity in the Marine Park (e.g. Hassall & Associates, 2001; Platten, Sawynok & Parsons 2007) or non-commercial use of a private boat (Blamey & Hundloe 1993).

The literature can be categorised into ‘independent’ and ‘managed’ activity-related information. Managed activities include those things that are considered to be tourism and, by definition, those activities where permitted operators collect the Environment Management Charge. Independent activities are those where individuals and groups undertake activities that do not rely on paying a fee for services relating to recreation.

While we have much information about managed activities (especially through Tourism Research Australia and GBRMPA data associated with the EMC), we have very little knowledge about independent recreational activity. It is the latter category that is of most interest in this paper.

(iii) Local resident users vs. non-resident users The key element in this body of research is whether someone is a locally resident user of the Marine Park, or whether they are not locally resident. Variations on this definition are used widely within tourism literature. Consistent with the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Tourism Research Australia, Access Economics (2007) defined tourism to include “overnight travel” where the visitor stays away from home for at least one night, further than 40 kilometres from home. In contrast, a “day visitor” is someone who undertakes a round trip distance of more than 50 kilometres and is away from home for more than four hours. A “local recreational trip” is a short trip less than 50 kilometres from home.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that there are some or many individuals who reside a greater distance away but who access the Marine Park as their primary venue for recreational boating and fishing. Thus, while widely used, this distinction requires further clarification.

(iv) Duration of activity Taken from World Tourism Organisation (1997) and drawing on McIntyre’s (1993)

definition, Moscardo and Ormsby (2004) define:

• A "Traveller" as any person on a trip between two or more locations

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