Covering over 344,400 km2 in area (approximately half the size of Texas), the Great Barrier Reef located off the coast of Australia, is the largest living structure on the planet. The reef is so large that it can be seen from space. It stretches approximately 2300 km along the coast of Queensland in north-eastern Australia, which is equal in length to the entire west coast of the USA from the Canadian to the Mexican border.
The reef is home to over 1500 different species of fish and is made up of 3000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays and about 150 inshore mangrove islands. The reef contains important nesting grounds for the endangered loggerhead turtle, and for green, hawksbill and flatback turtles, which are all listed as vulnerable. It is also a breeding area for humpback whales that come from the Antarctic to give birth in the warm waters.
The Great Barrier Reef is listed under all four natural World Heritage criteria for its outstanding universal value.