Cape York

The Cape York region includes 43,000 square kilometres of catchments that drain eastwards into the Great Barrier Reef. The region contains some exceptional conservation assets, including relatively intact and extensive coastal dune fields, wetlands, rainforest, heathlands and river systems that support high levels of biodiversity found nowhere else in Australia.

A sizeable proportion of land in Cape York is under Aboriginal ownership or management including through the Indigenous Land Corporation. Traditional use of marine resources is very high, particularly in inshore areas adjacent to Indigenous communities.

The Cape York region has occasional cyclones and summer-dominated rainfall that delivers sediments, nutrients and pesticides to the inshore and sometimes offshore portions of the Reef in pulsed flows. The Normanby catchment delivers significant fine sediment loads to Princess Charlotte Bay, a marine biodiversity hotspot, during such events. There is extensive grazing year-round, with some horticulture and other cropping. A large proportion of the land is used for conservation purposes, e.g. national parks.

The outer reef is located very close to the shoreline and there are many continental islands and coral cays. Habitats including fringing and offshore reefs, intertidal, subtidal and deep-water seagrass and mangroves. Reef-based tourism, as well as commercial and recreational fishing, are an important part of the regional economy, particularly in the southern part of the region.

The region’s Natural Resource Management body, Cape York Natural Resource Management, works with the agricultural industry and landholders, including Indigenous landholder specific activities, to improve management practices and reduce run-off to the Reef.

The catchment profiles provide information about each area including size and rainfall, land use, targets, the priorities for water quality improvement and sources of pollutants.