Naming of reefs and undersea geographic features

How are reefs named?

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Australian Hydrographic Office and the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection have an agreed process for naming reefs and other undersea geographic features within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The tripartite agreement was made in the 1980s because of the often ambiguous and overlapping roles between state and Commonwealth agencies in the naming of undersea geographic features within the Marine Park.

A memorandum of understanding formalised the process and principles involved in reef naming.

Each state and territory has legislative or regulatory procedures for approving and recording place names or features within their jurisdiction.

At the Commonwealth level, the recording of place names is the responsibility of the Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping and more particularly its subcommittee, the Permanent Committee on Place Names.

Both committees have members representing the Commonwealth, state and territory governments, the Australian Defence Force, including the Australian Hydrographic Office, and relevant New Zealand agencies.

The Permanent Committee on Place Names, with the assistance of the National Mapping Division of Geoscience Australia, produces the Gazetteer of Australia. This contains place names derived from the official place name gazetteers in each state and territory and offshore undersea feature names maintained by the Australian Hydrographic Office.

Within the Gazetteer of Australia, unapproved place and feature names are also maintained – reef names occur within this category.

Image of Joe Baker

Joe Baker

Our most recent named Reef

A reef 210 kilometres east-north-east of Mackay now bears the name Joe Baker Reef in honour of the world-renowed marine scientist and one of our foundational board members.

Professor Joe Baker, who passed away in 2018, was a dedicated Queensland scientist passionate about marine conservation. One of his most appreciated and significant contributions was his involvement in achieving World Heritage listing for the Great Barrier Reef in 1981. Among his achievements, Dr Baker founded aquaculture and marine bio-discovery research at the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville.

Joe Baker Location Map

Joe Baker Reef map

He also authored three books, 42 State of the Environment Reports, over 100 scientific publications and presented more than 100 scientific papers. Dr Baker developed a reputation as a scientific advisor to Governments and also as an inspiring educator and mentor to emerging scientists.

He advocated for holistic methods in the management of natural resources — including the importance of considering social, cultural, economic and ecological values in decision making. Dr Baker was heavily involved in organisations such as Earthwatch, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Australian Heritage Committee, World Wildlife Fund, Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University.

Dr Baker was also a foundation member of the Queensland Academy of Sport and foundation staff member at James Cook University.

Joe Baker Reef is located within a Marine National Park Zone (MNP-20-1124), about 210 kilometres east-north-east of Mackay with a Reef area of about 82 square kilometres.

His family were involved in the selection of the reef which bears his name. Located between a Habitat Protection zone and a Preservation zone, the position of Joe Baker Reef reflects the balance he brought to accessibility to the Great Barrier Reef while protecting it for future generations.

What is the Permanent Committee on Place Names?

The Permanent Committee on Place Names was formed in 1984 to coordinate Australian place-naming activities.

Representatives come from the Australian Geographical Names Boards for each state and territory, New Zealand and other individuals and institutions with an interest on nomenclature.

Who to contact to propose a reef name

To propose a name for an individual reef, contact:

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
Phone: +61 7 4750 0700

Summary of names accepted under the tripartite agreement

NameNumberZoning MapDate of Approval
Joe Baker Reef20-1124MNP 20 June 2019
Bob Endean Reef17-065MPZ 68 December 2014
Ron Taylor Reef21-284MPZ 161 October 2013
Patricia Mather Reef21-148MPZ 134 October 2012
Virginia Chadwick Reef18-016MPZ 723 April 2010
Vicki Harriott Reef15-070MPZ 5 1 August 2009
Ron Isbel Reef22-108MPZ 141 August 2009
Isobel Bennett Reef21-505MPZ 14 13 October 2008
Perkins Reef21-274MPZ 14 1 November 2007
Mullers Reef21-173MPZ 13 1 November 2007
Callum Shoal20-1271MPZ 10 & MPZ 111 November 2007
Peter Reef13-055MPZ 3 1 November 2007
Cowboys Reef18-082MPZ 9 6 October 2005
Nancy Foster Reef21-131MPZ 13 2 February 2005
Walker Reef 18-026MPZ 7 & MPZ 8 14 July 2003
Reimer Reef 19-152MPZ 11 14 July 2003
Anniversary Reefs(Banfield Reef (South) 18-105,
Saville- Kent Reef 18-099 and
Judith Wright Reef 18-101)
MPZ 9 18 April 2001
Bandjin Reefs(Barnett Patches 18-019,
Duncan Reef 18-020,
Moss Reef 17-068,
Reg Ward Reef 18-017
and 4 unnamed reefs)
MPZ 7 & MPZ 8 20 February 2001
Muirhead Reef20-187MPZ 136 December 2000
Newell Reef20-396MPZ 146 December 2000
Olympic Reef20-377MPZ 1329 August 2000
Fitzalan Passage MPZ 10 (not shown on map)25 November 1999
Kupuntutu Passage MPZ 322 July 1999
Osborn Passage MPZ 31 June 1999
Lads Passage MPZ 31 June 1999
Rachel Carson Reef15-092MPZ 512 December 1997