Great Sandy Strait Ramsar Site

The Great Sandy Strait Ramsar Site (GSS Ramsar site) was designated in 1999. It is a double-ended sand passage estuary receiving tidal flows from Hervey Bay in the north and Wide Bay in the south.

Situated partially within and between the Fraser Island World Heritage Area and the mainland coast it covers 93,160 hectares. Fresh water is delivered from a 1.25 million hectare catchment via rivers (Mary and Susan), creeks, coastal streams and the Cooloola sand mass to the comparatively small GSS Ramsar Site. Hydrological connectivity between adjacent areas, estuarine habitat and the upper reaches of the Mary River is a critical element that enables fish to move through riverine habitats for feeding or completing essential life-history migration.

The Outstanding Natural Values of the Great Sandy Strait

Arial_Fraser_Isl_and_Great_Sandy_Strait.jpgThe GSS Ramsar site supports a large diversity of wetland habitats and a high number of wetland flora and fauna including nationally and internationally threatened species. It supports exceptional biodiversity of freshwater, estuarine and marine wetland fauna, including important populations of crustaceans, insects (butterflies), fish, frogs, marine turtles, shorebirds, terrestrial and marine mammals. The highest counts worldwide for the endangered shorebird, eastern curlew occur here. A variety of habitats within the GSS Ramsar site reflect a transition between tropical and temperate ecological zones.

A substantial area of non-forested peat swamp, comprised mainly of the rare ‘patterned fen’, occurs within the GSS Ramsar site. These fens together with areas of ‘wallum’ heath plains and swamps support species adapted to the prevailing acidic water and substrate including threatened frogs and fishes as well as species of crayfish and earthworm.

The GSS Ramsar site is of considerable cultural significance to indigenous Australians and contains natural resources that potentially may be harvested sustainably by indigenous people for traditional purposes. The site’s rich diversity and abundance of natural resources also supports a range of nature-based tourism and recreational activities as well as fishing.

Due to its significance the GSS Ramsar site is part of the Great Sandy Marine Park. A marine park zoning plan guides use and management.

BMRG Projects & Partners

Charlene-Bezzina.jpgVarious threatening processes including pest plant and animal infestation, sedimentation, water quality decline and increasing urban development impact on the terrestrial and marine values of the GSS Ramsar site. On Fraser Island garden escapees from coastal townships threaten the integrity of surrounding the World Heritage Area. Through funding from the Australian Government, BMRG works with the community on projects to reduce threats and raise awareness of the importance of the GSS Ramsar site and the Fraser Island World Heritage Area.  

BMRG Projects

  • Pest species (animal and plant) control
  • Cane toad tadpole control trail with Bufo toxin 
  • Public access management (e.g. vehicles) to sensitive wetlands and other habitats
  • Threatened species surveys and conservation actions
  • Indigenous cultural awareness
  • Prevent garden plant escape from Fraser Island townships into surrounding World Heritage Area
  • Seagrass surveys and community education (Seagrass Watch)
  • Flood event water quality monitoring
  • Ecological assessment of inshore coral communities
  • Shorebird management initiatives
  • Improved fire management practices
  • Community education and training events
  • Removing barriers to the movement and migration of fish and other aquatic fauna in streams and wetlands

Key Project Partners

  • Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee
  • Cooloola Coastcare
  • Butchulla People Traditional Owners
  • Lower Mary River Land and Catchment Care Group
  • Fraser Island Defenders Organisation
  • Greater Mary Association
  • Fraser Coast and Gympie Regional Councils
  • Tandora Grazing
  • Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service
  • Queensland Wetlands Program (Dept. of Environment and Heritage Protection)
  • Department of Defence
  • Hancock Queensland Plantations
  • Seagrass Watch
  • University of Queensland