Letter to the Editor / Threats to nesting birds at northern end of Wonga Beach


Dear Editor,

In October 2020, Douglas Shire Council approved its Interim Wonga Beach Foreshore Management Plan which provides for resident-only beach driving permits for almost the entire 10.5 kms of this Great Barrier Reef Marine Park shoreline between 8am and 6.30 pm every day.

There are many aspects of concern about this plan, but chief amongst them is the threat posed to vulnerable wildlife.

The northern end of Wonga Beach is especially vulnerable to damage as it is a Great Barrier Reef lagoon sand flat estuarine shoreline which supports many feeding and nesting local and migratory shore birds.

Beach-driving in Australia is mostly done on surf beaches which are already wave prone and therefore do not support many breeding or feeding shorebirds. Wonga Beach is a fragile ecosystem rich in marine invertebrates that supports numerous feeding and breeding shorebirds, both migratory and local.

The northern estuarine end of Wonga Beach has limited foot traffic and has been relatively undisturbed until recently. As a consequence several vulnerable species are still attempting to nest here, whereas they cannot on the rest of Wonga Beach due to more frequent disturbance.

These pictures were taken this week, the first one is day three of a now uncontained off road vehicle campfire, precipitated largely by sanctioned beach driving.

The second image is a Red-capped plover ‘runner’ out on the beach dodging off road vehicle wheel treads; there are (or were!) an estimated 15 -20 pairs nesting scattered all along to the north of Pinnacles. It is estimated this species commenced breeding this year in early October but in previous years, eggs can still be found in December, suggesting beach closure north of Pinnacles is necessary October to January every year to protect this species.

All the other images are of Little tern nestlings. The pictures how immensely vulnerable the nesting colonies of beach-nesting species are to indiscriminate beach driving. The tern colony has 6 – 8 nests containing either eggs or newly hatched chicks. This colony is toward the Daintree river mouth.

Now Council has thrown open the entire beach to off road vehicles, what will it or Parks Queensland do about protecting the vulnerable wildlife – this is their responsibility.

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