Protecting our Ramsar sites of significance

Superb fairy wren

Protecting our Ramsar sites of significance

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, also called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty signed on 2 February 1971 to ‘the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local, regional and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world’. Australia is host to many Ramsar listed sites, two of which are Western Port and Port Phillip Bay (Western Shoreline) and the Bellarine Peninsula.

To date, over 160 nations have joined the Convention as Contracting Parties, and more than 2,200 wetland sites around the world have been listed, covering over 215 M hectares.

Wetlands around the world have declined between 64-71% in the 20th Century, and wetland loss and degradation continue worldwide. And it’s important to note that migratory shorebirds rely on a stable amount of wetland habitat in order to survive and reproduce.

In Australia, there are many elements that are downgrading essential habitat for migratory shorebirds including the red-necked stint, curlew sandpiper, sharp-tailed sandpipers.

The curlew sandpiper – key facts:

  • Curlew sandpiper breed in Siberia during June and July and then migrate to the southern Victorian bays in November/December for the Australian summer.
  • Global populations of this species are in decline, in particular,  the curlew sandpiper have declined by more than 80% in the last 50 years.
  • Threats to curlew sandpiper habitat include coastal development, land reclamation, construction of barrages and stabilisation of water levels that destroy feeding habitat in sites around Australia and the world.

The curlew sandpiper is listed by the Australian Government as critically endangered in Victoria, and is also recognised internationally as protected species.

Some Ramsar sites are subject to intensive use by humans – either to extract resources or to benefit from the natural services provided by the wetland – a Ramsar listing can provide the necessary protection to ensure its long-term sustainability. This can be best achieved by preparing and implementing an appropriate management plan.

In the Ramsar Strategic Plan for 2009-2015, the convention has remarked that one of the greatest obstacles to improving the implementation of the Convention and achieving its mission is reaching key policy and decision makers, most of whom are unaware of the Convention.

Read more about Ramsar