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Onboard - Tourism Operator's Handbook for the Great Barrier Reef

Sensitive Locations in the Cairns Planning Area

Eleven Locations or Localities in the Cairns Planning Area are particularly sensitive because they have unique conservation, cultural or scientific values or because of the intensity of existing use. There are special management arrangements in place to protect these values. The Sensitive Locations are:

  • Cape Tribulation Bay Locality 1
  • Cod Hole Locality
  • East Hope Island Reef (15-065)
  • Frankland Islands Sector
  • Green Island Reef (16-049)
  • Lizard Island Locality 1
  • Low Island Locality
  • Michaelmas Cay Locality
  • Snapper Island Reef (16-006)
  • Sudbury Cay Locality
  • West Hope Island Reef (15-064).

5-23-17 Michaelmas Cay

If your permit allows you to access the Cairns Planning Area, then it is likely that you will be able to visit all the Sensitive Locations. However, so that the number of vessels and aircraft visiting these special places is sustainable, there are controls on the number of times most tourism operations can visit.

You must also observe any other management arrangements for the Sensitive Location, such as group sizes and anchoring requirements.

Can I visit a Sensitive Location?

For most vessel-based operations in the Cairns Planning Area you are permitted to access Sensitive Locations. However:

  • you must not access the same Sensitive Location on more than 50 days a year (except if operating to a mooring at Lizard Island Locality 1 and Cod Hole Locality)
  • you must book to access a Sensitive Location (except Lizard Island Locality 1 and Cod Hole Locality)
  • For aircraft operations in the Cairns Planning Area:
  • you may operate your aircraft at Lizard Island Locality 1 and Cod Hole Locality
  • For all other Sensitive Locations you must observe the minimum flying heights (see Table below).

Can I have greater access?

You may access a Sensitive Location more than 50 days each year if you have an individual exemption (check your permit for any endorsements or letter of authorisations).

You can operate to a Sensitive Location for up to 50 days in a year without making a booking, if you:

  • conduct a craftless operation
  • conduct a non-motorised craft operation with a guide
  • conduct a hire operation
  • have an individual exemption (check your permit for any endorsements or letter of authorisations
  • operate a vessel to the Michaelmas Cay Locality and are a member of the Cairns Professional Game Fishing Association operating to the Association's mooring at that Locality.

How many vessels can book?

For most Sensitive Locations there is a maximum number of vessels that can be booked to access the Sensitive Location in a day (see Table below).

Table - Access to Sensitive Locations for vessels and aircraft

Sensitive LocationBooking Limit
(vessels per day)
Minimum Flying Height (feet)Special Requirements
Cape Tribulation Bay Locality 111500See Cape Tribulation Bay Locality 1 map
Cod Hole LocalityNo need to book 500See Cod Hole Locality map
East Hope Island Reef (15-065)21500See East Hope Island Reef and West Hope Island Reef map
Frankland Islands Sector11500See Frankland Islands Sector map
Green Island Reef (16-049)41500See Green Island Reef Localities map
Lizard Island Locality 1No need to book 500See Lizard Island Localities map and Mermaid Cove, Lizard Island Natural Resources Conservation Special Management Area map
Low Island Locality21500See Low Island Locality map
Michaelmas Cay Locality1*3000See Michaelmas Cay Locality map
Snapper Island Reef (16-006)11500See Snapper Island Reef map
Sudbury Cay Locality11500See Sudbury Cay Locality map
West Hope Island Reef (15-064)11500See East Hope Island Reef and West Hope Island Reef map

*Cairns Professional Game Fishing Association (CPGFA) members may access the Association's mooring without a booking.

What are the arrangements at Low Isles?

To help you plan your visits to the Low Island Locality, you can review the site management arrangements and some of the existing bookings on the GBRMPA website (see Related Links at top right of page).

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