The main climate pressures affecting the marine environment in Queensland are changes in ocean temperatures, the frequency and intensity of storms, and acidity. Understanding the effects of these changes can assist in understanding the likely impacts to coastal communities.

Increased ocean temperatures negatively affect commercial and recreational fisheries, marine tourism (dive and fishing charters), and shipping, ports and marinas. Negative impacts to these industries result from species shifting their ranges to cooler waters, reduced survival rates and increased prevalence of pests and diseases. Additional regulations may be placed on shipping, and monitoring/remediation may be required to deal with pests and diseases in ports and marinas.

Storms, in particular cyclones, negatively affect land-based aquaculture through damage to infrastructure such as barramundi ponds. Marine tourism (dive and fishing charters) is also negatively affected by storms through direct damage to corals and reductions in the number of days  businesses are able to operate. In addition, increased ocean acidity reduces coral growth and can negatively impact dive charters that specialise in coral reef diving.

High value species

Queensland’s commercial wild capture fisheries had a total value around  $188m in 2010/11, while the catch was 21 112 t. Between 2006 and 2010, the gross value and production of Queensland commercial wild capture fisheries increased by 14% and 11% respectively.

In 2010/11, the crab fishery had the highest value (over $29m) followed closely by king prawn (under $29m) coral trout (approximately $26m). The crab fishery also had the highest production (2932 t) followed by king prawn (2262 t) and mullet (1476 t). Other important fished species include barramundi, banana prawn and tiger prawn.


Queensland’s aquaculture sector is the second most valuable in Australia and is dominated by prawns and barramundi. Prawn aquaculture has production and value were 3822 t and approximately $56m, while barramundi production was 2764 t and valued at approximately $21m. Aquarium fish, oysters and silver perch make up a smaller proportion of aquaculture production in the state.

Recreational fishing

Henry and Lyle (2003) found that recreational and Indigenous fishing participation in Queensland was almost 25%. Participation was approximately equivalent with South Australia and lower than the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Western Australia. These fishers catch mainly mackerels, emperors, coral trout and mud crab.

Other sectors

Non-fishing (& aquaculture) industries that are important in Queensland include the shipping/sea freight industry and an active marine tourism sector supported largely by the presence of the Great Barrier Reef.

In 2010/11, almost 30% of the total number of people employed in ports in Australia worked in Queensland. This was the largest number of any state. The freight shipped through (imports and exports) Queensland ports was 230m tonnes and had a value of almost $69 billion. Only Western Australia has greater freight movement and value.

Marine tourism is very important in Queensland, particularly near the Great Barrier Reef. As an example, there were 49 whale watching operators in the state in 2010/11 and almost 350 000 participants, second only to New South Wales. Direct and indirect expenditure in the whale watching industry was approximately $57m at this time. Other marine tourism activities such as scuba diving, snorkelling and boat-viewing are also very popular in Queensland.

Queensland has 57 yacht clubs, ranking third behind New South Wales and Victoria in number of yacht clubs. This number gives a broad indication of the participation in recreational sailing in the state.

Climate and sealife

See Climate and sealife – species sensitivities page for detailed information