Heron Island is a National Park located within the waters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Consequently all research, educational (e.g. School and University groups) and commercial activities, (including commercial filming/photography) are subject to National Park and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) permit regulations.

  • HIRS – Environmental Management Plan

    The Heron Island Research Station (HIRS) Environmental Management Plan (EMP) establishes The University of Queensland’s environmental vision, goals, targets and actions for operations and activities on Heron Island and the surrounding Heron Reef. It addresses the themes of research use (Limited Impact, extractive and non-extractive, and other GBRMPA permits), animal collection and release, seawater use and emissions, management and monitoring strategies and reporting requirements.

    Prioritised actions have been developed to improve the health and function of the environment, reduce environmental impacts associated with Research Station operations and user activities and to eliminate research and teaching conflicts. These are designed to reduce the environmental impacts from the Research Station through leadership, communication and co-operation. The key stakeholders are Research Station staff and clients, resort staff and clients, government agencies, environmental organisations and local and indigenous community groups.

    Targets and actions of this EMP comply with relevant legislation, reports and policies from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. This EMP is also consistent with the Memorandum of Understanding between GBRMPA and the University of Queensland and associated Code of Conduct agreed for the conduct of “as-of-right” scientific research in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

    The Heron Island Research Station will coordinate overall implementation of this EMP, and outcomes will be reported to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in the annual Heron Island Research Station Environmental Management Plan Report.

  • Zoning – Marine Based Activities

    When planning your research or educational activities, understanding the different zones that exist around Heron Island will be important.

    Heron Island is situated within the Great Barrier Reef Capricorn Bunker Group. The waters surrounding Heron Island are classified into Marine National Park (green), Conservation Park (yellow) or Scientific Research (thin orange line) zones, as illustrated below. Each zone has different restrictions. For additional information regarding Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning, please refer to the GBRPMA zoning maps.

  • Permits – Marine Based Activities

    All research, with the exception of Limited Impact Research, and educational activities will require a GBRMPA permit to conduct activities in the Marine Park (including snorkeling, diving, reef walking, surveys, transects and collecting). Application forms can be found on the GBRMPA Zoning, Permits and Plans website and should be submitted to GBRMPA.

    All permits must be obtained prior to your arrival on Heron Island. The permit process can take 2-3 months so it is important that applications are submitted well in advance of your trip. Copies of permits must be supplied to HIRS Scientific Staff prior to your arrival. Please contact HIRS Scientific Staff or GBRMPA if you have any queries about permits. Applications for standard activities take a minimum of 16 weeks to process.

    Ph: +61 7 4750 0700 or 1800 990 770; email: permitenquiry@gbrmpa.gov.au

  • Limited Impact Research authorisation – Marine Based Activities

    Some research and educational activities fall under the category of Limited Impact Research. These activities are generally defined as low impact research conducted within certain zones, where small numbers of non-protected species are taken by hand or simply observed. To determine whether your research activity falls under Limited Impact Research, please visit the GBRMPA Researcher activities webpage.

    Researchers who wish to conduct Limited Impact Research within the Scientific Zone adjacent to HIRS must gain written authorisation from their GBRMPA accredited research or educational institution before arrival and supply a copy to HIRS Scientific Staff. For details on how to apply for accreditation, please visit the Faculty of Science Limited Impact permits page.

    Please allow up to two weeks for staff to process your application.

    The University of Queensland contact person for granting authorisation to conduct Limited Impact Research is:

    Phoebe Baldwin
    Ph: +61 7 3443 1095; email: p.baldwin@uq.edu.au

  • Permits – Land Based Activities

    Conducting research, educational or commercial activities in the National Park (above the high water mark), may require a Scientific Purposes Permit.

    Educational groups will also need to obtain an Educational Purposes Permit if you want to collect specimens in the National Park (above the high water mark).

    Please contact Permit and Licence Management, under the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, if you require further information.

    Permit and Licence Management
    Ph: 1300 130 372; email: palm@ehp.qld.gov.au

  • Animal Ethics

    Research, educational and commercial activities involving animals (as defined by the Australian Code of Practice e.g. cephlapods, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals) may require Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) approval. No animal may be acquired, bred, held or used for any purpose at HIRS until written approval has been obtained from an AEC.

    A copy of your AEC approval must be provided to HIRS Scientific Staff prior to your arrival.

  • Photographing/Filming


    Guests may require a permit for non-personal filming or photography on the Island and in the waters surrounding Heron Island. Depending on the location, guests should contact either: 1) the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing, or 2) GBRMPA.

    University Permission

    Guests may require permission for non-personal filming or photography while on the Station. You can request permission through the Station Manager. All requests will be considered to ensure the filming is appropriate and that the necessary security and insurance requirements are in place.

    To request permission for non-personal photography/filming on the Station, please send the following documentation to the Station Manager at least five working days ahead of filming.

    • UQ Location agreement – completed and signed by group representative
    • Public Liability Certificate – a common document provided by an insurance body, that details the amount and type of insurance cover and the date of validation
    • Brief synopsis of topic

    The Station Manager will consider the application with the Office of Marketing and Communications and respond to your request via email. Filming must adhere to requirements around the Privacy Act, and waivers should be completed by people appearing in imagery.

    Filming and research using unmanned aircraft

    GBRMPA has provided a fact sheet about using drones and other unmanned aircraft in the GBRMP. 

  • Transporting Specimens

    Transferring Specimens Interstate

    Permit and Licence Management, under the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, must be contacted to discuss any proposal to move wildlife out of, or into Queensland. In addition, the wildlife authorities in the other state must be contacted to ensure you have the necessary documentation to proceed with the movement.

    Permit and Licence Management
    Ph: 1300 130 372; email: palm@ehp.qld.gov.au

    Exporting Specimens Overseas

    If you intend to export any specimens or portions of anything collected within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park you need to contact the Department of the Environment to determine if you require an export permit.

    Department of the Environment
    Ph: +61 2 6274 1900; email: wildlifetrade@environment.gov.au