Welcome news for Great Barrier Reef's threatened wildlife

Posted on 20 June 2023

Destructive commercial gill nets will be phased out in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef after a long-running campaign by WWF and our supporters. 

WWF-Australia has campaigned for the past seven years against the use of commercial gill nets in the Great Barrier Reef, concerned about the way they indiscriminately kill species, which are not targeted by fishers, including dugongs, dolphins, turtles, sawfish and sharks.

So we welcome a decision by the Australian and Queensland governments to phase out their use by mid-2027 in the natural World Heritage site. 

This will be backed by a government package of over AUS$160 million, which will support a number of measures including the buyout of gill net licences, the creation of net-free zones and the use of independent data valuation on commercial fishing vessels. 

“This announcement is shaping up as a globally significant moment for ocean conservation, fisheries management and the Great Barrier Reef − one of the natural wonders of the world,” said Dermot O’Gorman, CEO of WWF-Australia.


In 2016, WWF-Australia took an unusual step for a conservation organization: purchasing a commercial gill net licence in order to shelve it. In total, thanks to generous supporters from across the globe, we purchased, and shelved, four commercial licences entitled to fish in Great Barrier Reef waters. This included the last two licences operating in Queensland’s Far North, home to globally significant populations of turtles and dugongs. 

Our work will continue now with the Australian and Queensland governments to deliver urgently needed protection for more areas critical to the survival of the reef’s threatened marine wildlife.