T he savannah area of northern Australia is one of the largest naturally intact areas remaining on earth. Our coastal fringe supports 27 different species of mangrove, extensive seagrass meadows with eight different species recorded, and a vast array of other marine species using the mangroves, pristine estuaries and seagrass as nurseries and crucial habitat.
There are four wetlands listed on the Directory of Important Wetlands Australia found on our country. This explains the Gulf's recognition as the third most Important Bird Area (IBA) in Australia. The concentration of migratory shorebirds within this part of the Gulf is higher than anywhere else in Queensland. At least half of the State's waders pass through or spend some time on our country from September to April each year, and importantly high numbers of young birds or non-breeding adults over-winter here.
The Gulf Plains IBA support the main breeding population of the vulnerable Sarus Crane, the near threatened Australian Bustard and nine savannah biome-restricted species and more than 1% of the global population of twelve species:
Gouldian Finches and the Crimson Finch are regularly spotted in grassy areas with nearby freshwater bodies.
The area is internationally important for between 15 to 20 species and nationally important for an additional four species of shorebirds. The Gulf Plain IBA meets Ramsar requirements for its inclusion on the register for this international agreement for the protection of migratory bird species.
There are at least eight other threatened species that call our country home, and possibly another ten to be found (evidence suggests they should be present).
All six Australian marine turtle species occur in the region, and the southern Gulf supports a genetically distinct sub-regional population of green turtles, numbering around 5,000.
This stretch of coastline is also identified as being an important dugong area. The total number of dugongs believed to be in the Gulf is in the order of 20,000 to 30,000, with the southern Gulf being particularly important habitat and feeding grounds, supporting upwards of 5,000 individuals.
There are over 44 different species of freshwater fish found in our waters, with a few extras still to be identified. There are 22 commonly targeted saltwater fish species found across the region. All the big sporting fish are common in our waters, including:
And they are all very tasty!
Sharks and catties are other species that are caught regularly, but more likely than not, are released. Though visitors do not target these species, these do form part of our diet, so we would ask you release them back into the water unharmed.
Mudcrabbing is a popular treat and when conditions are right crabs can be easily caught with minimal effort.
But the real delicacy of our waters is the cherabin (or giant freshwater prawn) and at the right time of year and with a bit of know-how and effort they can provide a nice supplement to the more commonly targeted species. It is important to remember though all of these species are not an endless resource, despite how abundant they appear to be and strict bag limits must be followed and will be enforced.
Some of our more rare species include the freshwater sawfish. All sawfish are no take species. Should you happen to catch one they need to be released using the upmost care - they can inflict serious injury if not handled with the appropriate respect of something waving a sword around in front of it deserves. Please report all incidental captures to the Gangalidda and Garawa Rangers with a brief description of the fish type, if possible (you can tell by it sword and the configuration of teeth - a photo would be awesome!), the approximate size and location caught.
Don't forget though, the barra is not the apex predator in our waters - that infamous honour belongs to the saltwater crocodile! Don't mess with these buggars because you will come off second best. They are the largest living reptile in the world with the ability to grow to 8m and weighing up to one tonne. If you're anywhere near the water you probably won't see them, but rest assured they've seen you.