John Tanzer originally trained in the disciplines of geography and economics, completing an honours degree at James Cook University in 1980. Since that time he has worked in a number of areas of natural resource management and policy particularly in the marine and coastal realms. He holds a master’s degree in environmental law from the Australian National University.
Mr Tanzer was appointed as the inaugural Chair and Chief Executive of Queensland’s Fisheries Management Authority (QFMA) when it was first established in 1994. In 1998 he was appointed as Executive Director of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) the Federal Government agency responsible for the management of the Great Barrier Reef. He served in this position and as Acting Chairman for 10 years. During his service in this position and also as the Acting Chairman, he led the Commonwealth’s negotiations to develop the East Coast Trawl Plan and the Reef Line Fishery Plan. Most notably from 2001 onwards he was the Executive Director responsible for the oversight of the spatial rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park based on the Representative Areas Program (RAP) which resulted in highly protected area increased from around 5% to over 33% of the 350,000sq kilometre park.
Mr Tanzer represented the Australian government at the first Coral Triangle Summit in Bali in December 2007. Between July 2008 and December 2012 he worked with the international NGOs –WWF and The Nature Conservancy to assist with the development of the Coral Triangle Initiative. In this role he worked extensively throughout the region. He also worked as an advisor to an alliance of Australian universities to provide capacity development to the countries and institutions of the Coral Triangle.
In February 2012 he joined WWF International as the Director, Global Marine Program. Recently he has been appointed as the Global Leader of the newly formed Oceans Practice for WWF. His responsibilities include development and implementation of a new global marine strategy. The focus of his work is to support the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals especially SDG14.