Maps and zoning information for Cairns Area Plan of Management

What you need to know about zoning in the Cairns Area

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Australian Government) and Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park (Queensland Government) are multiple-use areas. Zoning plans help to manage and protect the values of the Marine Parks that users enjoy.

The Australian Government’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003 and the Queensland Government's Marine Parks (Great Barrier Reef Coast) Zoning Plan 2004 define the activities that can occur in specific locations both to protect the marine environment and to separate potentially conflicting activities.

It is important that you are aware of the zone you are in while you are on the water, so take time to check where you are going and what you can do there. The activities guide sets out what you can do in each zone. Please refer to it carefully before taking part in any activities in the Marine Parks.

Get your free zoning map for the Cairns Area from bait and tackle shops, ship chandlers, visitor information centres and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service offices. Alternatively, phone the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on
1800 990 177 or email to request a copy.

Please note: The activities that can be carried out within the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park are generally the same, however there may be some differences. Refer to the relevant zoning plans for further details.

Make sure you take your map with you and consult it regularly. Fines apply for breaching Marine Parks legislation.

In zones where fishing is allowed, Queensland fisheries legislation also applies. For information about fisheries legislation contact Fisheries Queensland on 13 25 23.

Frequently asked questions

Q. Can I spearfish in the Cairns area?

A. Limited spearfishing is allowed in General Use (Light Blue), Habitat Protection (Dark Blue) and Conservation Park (Yellow) Zones, except for those Yellow Zones that are within a Public Appreciation Special Management Area (SMA). These are located around a number of reefs within the Cairns Planning Area (Flynn Reef, Thetford Reef, part of Opal Reef, part of Yonge Reef and north-east of Lizard Island).

Public Appreciation SMAs are depicted on the zoning maps as a pink dashed line. Always check your zoning map before spearfishing in a Yellow Zone.

Limited spearfishing means fishing with a spear or speargun not using a powerhead, firearm, light or underwater breathing apparatus other than a snorkel. You must not use a light when spearfishing in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Q. Can I collect souvenirs?

A. You may want to keep a memento of your visit to the Cairns Area, but you may be inadvertently taking a creature’s home or, in worst cases, taking a living animal from its neighbourhood.

Limited collecting is allowed in General Use (Light Blue), Habitat Protection (Dark Blue) and Conservation Park (Yellow) Zones. Generally, not more than five of any one species can be taken at a time and no coral (alive or dead) can be taken without a permit.

Protected species may not be taken – these include seahorses, pipefish, giant clams, helmet shells and giant triton shells.

Q. Can I walk on the reef flat?

A. The reef is very vulnerable to damage and you should try to walk on it as little as possible. If you are walking over the reef flat, tread lightly and be aware that you are actually walking in an area teeming with marine life.

Look out for dangerous animals such as cone shells, stinging hydroids and stone fish.

Q. Can I enter a Preservation (Pink) Zone?

A. No. Access into Preservation Zones is not permitted without formal written permission from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), except in an emergency. Extractive activities are strictly prohibited. This provides a high level of protection for special and unique places, habitats, plants and animals in the Marine Park.

In the Cairns Area, Preservation Zones are located around Carter Reef, Ribbon Number 6 Reef, Camel Head Reef, North West Reef and Euston Reef.

View more frequently asked questions about zoning.

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