Great Sandy Marine Park Regional Profile: Woodgate and Burrum Coast
The Woodgate and Burrum Coast region of the marine park extends from the southern side of the Elliott River to Toogoom and includes the Burrum River system, Theodolite Creek, Marsh Creek and Beelbi Creek, along with the southwestern portion of Hervey Bay. The coastal townships of Woodgate, Burrum Heads, Buxton and Toogoom adjoin the marine park in the region.
- View larger map showing Woodgate and Burrum Coast region of the Great Sandy Marine Park – Zones and Designated Areas .
The coastal fringe primarily consists of sandy beaches adjacent to wide intertidal flats. While these beach habitats are largely protected from ocean swell and wave energy by the presence of K’gari (Fraser Island), they are still subject to relatively active coastal erosion and accretion processes1. The extensive intertidal flats within the region support migratory shorebirds, with the flats within Theodolite Creek home to the largest shorebird roost in the region2.
Seagrass occurs in the nearshore and offshore areas of the region and in the lower reaches of some of the rivers and creeks. The extensive nearshore seagrass meadows in the vicinity of the Burrum River mouth provide a regionally-important habitat for dugong. Marine turtles also utilise this area in significant numbers.
A number of offshore reefs are dotted throughout the region supporting reef fauna and flora communities. Four Mile Reef is a regionally unique reef system located approximately 5.5 kilometres offshore between Elliott River and Theodolite Creek. The reef, believed to be 1,200 years old3, is ecologically significant containing abundant massive and soft corals, turf algae, encrusting sponges, hydroids, reef fish and sharks4. The reef’s structure, coral, and fish communities are considered to be regionally-outstanding and closely resemble reefs found on the opposite side of the Pacific Ocean in Panama3.
The creek and river systems within this region contain extensive mangroves and saltmarsh habitats, along with diverse unvegetated habitat types (e.g. sand bars, deep holes and channels, undercut banks, etc). These attributes combine to make these waterways important areas for dugong, turtle, shorebirds, fish and crustaceans5,6. Some mangrove areas within the Burrum River system also support populations of the vulnerable water mouse7,8.
Boating and fishing are the dominant human uses within the marine park in this region. The nearshore areas of the marine park, particularly around Burrum Heads, Woodgate and Toogoom provide opportunities for nearshore recreational uses such as swimming, kayaking, sailing and beach walking.
Recreational and commercial fishing
Commercial fishers net for mullet, tailor, mackerel and flathead within this region, and otter trawl for prawns, scallops, bugs and sand crabs in the waters offshore from the marine national park or “green” zones and habitat protection zones. Recreational fishers target a range of species such as bream, whiting, flathead, grunter, mangrove jack, estuary cod, tarpon, trevally, prawns and crabs in the Burrum River and other estuaries within the region. Fishing for reef and pelagic species, such as mackerel, tailor and snapper, is undertaken at the Woodgate Artificial Reef and many of the region’s natural nearshore reefs. Pelagic species such as mackerel are also targeted around these reefs and in feeding schools across the region during the summer to autumn months.
A major regional public boat ramp facility was constructed in late 2016 at Burrum Heads to provide additional capacity in meeting the increasing demand for vessel launch sites.
The Burrum River system and Beelbi Creek contain a range of small scale, predominantly private structures such as jetties, boat ramps and revetments. Most of these structures were installed prior to the declaration of the marine park. The current marine park and declared Fish Habitat Area management within the waterways of this region largely precludes further development of private structures. Local and state government has developed and maintains a range of public infrastructure, particularly around the townships of the region that extend into the marine park (e.g. sea walls, storm water outlets and boat ramps).
The land uses adjacent to this region of the marine park are a mix of residential, rural residential /low intensity rural, and large areas of national park.
Marine park zoning
The marine park zoning within this region includes six marine national park zones (MNP). MNP4 is located in the waters offshore from Woodgate, protecting a large area of seagrass and assisting with the long-term sustainability of turtles and dugong. MNPs 5, 6, 7 and 8 are in the upper reaches of each of the Gregory, Isis, Cherwell and Burrum rivers, and protect habitats at the upper tidal limits of these waterways. MNP 9 extends over the entire Marsh Creek estuary and provides connectivity with the surrounding Burrum Coast National Park.
Conservation park zones protect Theodolite Creek, a coastal strip north of Woodgate, the Burrum River (including parts of the Gregory, Isis and Cherwell rivers) and Beelbi Creek. The remainder of the offshore parts of the region are habitat protection or general use zones.
The Burrum River system also forms part of the designated Great Sandy Area. This designated area allows for the continuation of some fishing practices that would normally be prohibited or limited within a conservation park zone. Specifically, commercial net fishing is allowed to continue when commercial netting other than bait netting would usually be prohibited. Recreational fishers are allowed to use up to three lines or rods per person when they would usually be limited to one line or rod per person.
A designated vessel go slow area, extends to the south of the Burrum River mouth, and aims to minimise the risk for vessel strike to dugong and turtles utilising this shallow, seagrass habitat.
Additional management arrangements
The Woodgate and Burrum Creek region is overlaid and/or complemented by additional management initiatives including:
- the Kinkuna, Burrum and Beelbi declared Fish Habitat Areas that extend over most of the foreshore and waterways within this region and recognise the fish habitat values of these waterways, and protect them from development-related disturbance.
- a Zone A Dugong Protection Area (DPA) under the Fisheries Act 1994, recognising the area as a key dugong habitat and restricts the type of commercial fishing nets that can be used in the area, and requires these nets to be constantly monitored while they are in the water.
- a range of fisheries and fish habitat management arrangements under the Fisheries Act 1994 (e.g. size limits, possession limits, gear restrictions, etc), that aim to sustainably manage fish stocks and fish passage, and protect marine plants from disturbance.
- protection of threatened species listed under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.
- the adjacent Burrum Coast National Park declared under the Nature Conservation Act 1992, directly adjoining a large part of the coastal fringe of the marine park, particularly in the area north of the Burrum River and around Marsh Creek.
- a suite of state legislation that delivers: coastal management, environment protection, vegetation and water management, management of maritime activities, and provides a framework for land use planning and development regulation.
- local government planning schemes, regional plans, natural resource management plans.
- C. Bruinsma and K. Danaher, “Queensland coastal wetland resources: Round Hill to Tin Can Inlet,” Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane, Queensland, 2000.
- D. Milton and S. Harding, “Shorebirds of the Burnett Coast: surveys of critical high tide roosts,” Queensland Wader Study Group, Unpublished Report, Burbank, Queensland, 2007.
- Butler, “Flood response and palaeoecology of the high-latitude, terrigenoclastic influenced coral reefs of Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia,” unpublished, PhD thesis, University of Queensland, 2015.
- H. Bushell, “Assessment of the status of the benthic reef communities within the Woongarra region,” Unpublished third year undergraduate report. School of Science and Management, Southern Cross University, Lismore, New South Wales, 2008.
- J. Mackenzie and N. Duke, “State of the mangroves report: Burnett Mary Region. A descriptive account and condition assessment of estuaries, tidal wetlands and mangroves. Final report to the Burnett Mary Regional Group,” University of Queensland, Centre for Marine Studies, Brisbane, Queensland, 2009.
- J. Sheppard, A. Preen, H. Marsh, I. Lawler, S. Whiting and R. Jones, “Movement heterogeneity of dugongs, Dugong dugon (Müller), over large spatial scales,” Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, vol. 334, pp. 64-83, 2006.
- N. Kaluza, Interviewee, Water Mouse Surveys in the Great Sandy region. [Interview]. 19 02 2016.
- J. Kaluza. Great Sandy Strait water mouse survey and monitoring project 2014-2018. Internal report, University of Queensland, 2018.
- Tobruk Public Mooring Closed 3 June to 31 July 2021