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Ramsar sites

Australia is a member of the International Convention on Wetlands, Ramsar Convention. Member countries must nominate at least one wetland for the List of Wetlands of International Importance. These are known as Ramsar wetlands.

Australia has 67 Ramsar wetlands, and 12 are in Victoria. Oversight of Ramsar commitments in Victoria falls under the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA).

Each Australian Ramsar site must possess a Ramsar Information Sheet, an ecological character description, and a management plan following the Ramsar Convention. These documents provide vital insights into the site's data, characteristics, and management strategies.

Visit Data Vic for a geospatial layer of Ramsar site boundaries.

National Guidelines for Ramsar sites

The policy for managing Ramsar sites in Victoria is set out in the Victorian Waterway Management Strategy and the Australian Government Department of the Environment has national guidelines on the following Ramsar matters:

  • mapping specifications for Australian Ramsar Wetlands
  • national framework and guidance for describing the ecological character of Australia's Ramsar Wetlands
  • national guidance on notifying change in the ecological character of Australia's Ramsar Wetlands (Article 3.2)
  • Australian Ramsar site nomination guidelines.

Ecological Character Descriptions, mandated by the Australian Government, capture the site's ecological traits at the time of Ramsar listing. The Australian Government also guides boundary descriptions and mapping of Australian Ramsar sites.

Visit the Department of Environment for further information on the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

Nationally important wetlands

A Directory of National Wetlands in Australia recognises many of Victoria’s wetlands as nationally important. You can find more information about these wetlands in the Australian Wetlands Database.

Barmah Forest

The Barmah Forest Ramsar site is located on the Murray River floodplain in northern Victoria. It was listed as a Ramsar site in 1982.

The Yorta Yorta people are the formally recognised Traditional Owners in Victoria for the area and are represented by the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation.

Victorian Ramsar sites

The Barmah Forest Ramsar site is internationally significant because:

  • it is part of the largest River red gum forest in Australia
  • it supports extensive plains of aquatic grassland
  • it supports rare and threatened plants and animals, including migratory waterbirds
  • it is a hot spot of biological diversity and supports over 533 native plants and 273 native animals
  • it is an important drought refuge and feeding and breeding area for waterbirds, fish, frogs and turtles
  • it supports 1% of the world's population of Australasian Bittern
  • it is important for native migratory fish that spawn in the Murray River floodplain.

The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority has responsibility for managing the Ramsar site. They work with key partners to implement management actions outlined in the Goulburn Broken Waterway Strategy 2014-2022.

The Barmah Forest Ramsar Site Ecological Character Description and Information Sheet is available on the Australian Government Department of the Environment website.

Barmah Forest is co-managed by Yorta Yorta and Parks Victoria as a National Park. Learn more about the joint Management Plan at Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Land Management Board and Parks Victoria websites.

Corner Inlet

The Corner Inlet Ramsar site is located 260 km southeast of Melbourne. It is a tidal mudflat system and was listed as a Ramsar site in 1982.

The Corner Inlet Ramsar site is internationally significant because:

  • it supports the world's most southerly population of white mangroves and extensive areas of saltmarsh and seagrass
  • it is an important feeding and nesting area for many waterbirds including migratory shorebirds
  • it supports a range of native fish species.

Most of the Ramsar site consists of the Corner Inlet Marine and Coastal Park and Nooramunga Marine and Coastal Park managed by Parks Victoria.

The West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority is responsible for the region's catchment management. The West Gippsland Waterway Strategy 2014-2022 details the Corner Inlet Ramsar Site Management Plan.

The Corner Inlet Ramsar Site Ecological Character Description and Information Sheet is available on the Australian Government Department of the Environment website.

The ecological character description was amended in 2017.

Edithvale-Seaford

The Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands Ramsar site is located in Melbourne's southeastern suburbs, roughly 30 km from the CBD. It was listed as a Ramsar site in 2001.

The Bunurong people are the formally recognised Traditional Owners for the area and are represented by the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation.

The Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands Ramsar site is internationally significant because:

  • it supports foraging and potential breeding habitat for threatened waterbird species, particularly the nationally endangered Australasian Bittern)
  • it supports more than 1% of the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper that migrates along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway population
  • it supports the Curlew sandpiper, a critically endangered shorebird
  • it assists in the natural control of flooding.
  • The site comprises 2 wetlands, Edithvale and Seaford.These wetlands are what remain of the much more extensive Carrum Carrum Swamp which covered more than 4,000 hectares and was largely drained in the 19th century.

    The Bunurong people are the formally recognised Traditional Owners for the area and are represented by the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation.

Melbourne Water manages the Ramsar site and is responsible for the region's catchment management. You can find the Ramsar site within Melbourne Water and Frankston City Council areas.

For more information, visit the Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands Ramsar Site Management Plan on Melbourne Water’s website.

The Edithvale-Seaford Ramsar Site Ecological Character Description and Information Sheet is available on the Australian Government Department of the Environment website.

Gippsland Lakes

The Gippsland Lakes Ramsar site, located 200 km east of Melbourne, spans from Sale Common east to Lake Tyers, encompassing around 60,000 hectares. It was listed as a Ramsar site in 1982.

The Gunaikurnai people are the formally recognised Traditional Owners of the area and are represented by the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation.

The Gippsland Lakes Ramsar site is internationally significant because it provides habitat for:

  • waterbirds, including migratory shorebirds
  • fish such as Black Bream
  • threatened species such as the nationally vulnerable Growling Grass Frog.

The Ramsar site comprises coastal lagoons developed behind a barrier dune system, creating Australia's biggest estuarine lagoon system.

It covers the Gippsland Lakes National Park and public reserves, most of which are managed by Parks Victoria. DEECA manages the waters of some of the lakes.

The West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority and East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority have responsibility for catchment management in the western and eastern parts of the region respectively. The Gippsland Lakes Ramsar Site Management Plan can be found on the East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority’s website.

The Gippsland Lakes Ramsar site Ecological Character Description (PDF, 1.0 MB) was updated in 2023.

The Information Sheet is available from the Federal Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.

Glenelg Estuary and Discovery Bay

The Glenelg Estuary and Discovery Bay Ramsar site is located approximately 340 km west of Melbourne, on Victoria’s border with South Australia. The Ramsar site was listed in 2018.

The Gunnditjmara people are the formally recognised Traditional Owners of the area and are represented by the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owner Aboriginal Corporation.

The Glenelg Estuary and Discovery Bay Ramsar site is internationally significant because:

  • it provides diverse aquatic habitats which include intertidal sandy beaches, estuarine habitat, freshwater swamps, permanent lakes and nationally threatened saltmarsh
  • it supports 8 nationally or internationally listed species of conservation significance, including the critically endangered Eastern Curlew and Australasian Bittern
  • it provides feeding, spawning and nursery habitat for 28 fish species
  • it supports 24 bird species that migrate annually from the northern hemisphere
  • it has rare geological and geomorphic features.

The Ramsar site has a diverse range of wetland types which are hydrologically and ecologically connected. The connection between the marine, estuarine and freshwater components is significant for fish migration and reproduction. For example, the mulloway fish feeds in the Glenelg Estuary and migrates to a distance of up to 400 km to the Murray River Mouth to spawn.

The site also supports a large population of the Ancient greenling, also known as the Hemiphlebia Damselfly.

The site supports recreational and tourism activities including:

  • sightseeing
  • walking
  • camping
  • recreational fishing.

The site covers 22,289 hectares and includes the Nelson Streamside Reserve and part of the Lower Glenelg National Park and Discovery Bay Coastal Park. These areas are all managed by Parks Victoria.

The Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority is responsible for the region's catchment and waterway management.

The Glenelg Estuary and Discovery Bay site Ecological Character Description and Information Sheet is available on the Australian Government Department of the Environment website.

Gunbower Forest

The Gunbower Forest Ramsar site is located in northern Victoria on the Murray River floodplain between Echuca and Koondrook. The Ramsar site is a large, seasonally flooded River Red Gum forest and woodland. The Gunbower Forest Ramsar site was listed in 1982.

The Yorta Yorta people are the formally recognised Traditional Owners in Victoria for parts of the the area and are represented by the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation.

The Gunbower Forest Ramsar site is internationally significant because:

  • it provides an important habitat for native fish and waterbirds
  • it supports the only breeding colony of the Intermediate Egret in Victoria.

The Ramsar site comprises the reserves of the Gunbower National Park and the River Murray Reserve managed by Parks Victoria, and Gunbower State Forest managed by DEECA.

North Central Catchment Management Authority is responsible for catchment and waterway management in the region. Gunbower Forest site management is detailed in the North Central Waterway Strategy 2014-2022.

The Gunbower Forest site Ecological Character Description and Information Sheet is available on the Australian Government Department of the Environment website.

Hattah-Kulkyne Lake

The Hattah-Kulkyne Lakes Ramsar site is located 480 km north-west of Melbourne in north-western Victoria on the Murray River floodplain between Ouyen and Mildura.

The Ramsar site is a system of 12 temporary lakes fringed by River Red Gum and Black Box. The Ramsar site was listed in 1982.

The Hattah-Kulkyne Lakes Ramsar site is located 480 km north-west of Melbourne in north-western Victoria on the Murray River floodplain between Ouyen and Mildura. The Ramsar site is a system of 12 temporary lakes fringed by River Red Gum and Black Box. The Ramsar site was listed in 1982.

The Hattah-Kulkyne Lakes Ramsar site is internationally significant because:

  • it supports waterfowl and native fish
  • it maintains regional biodiversity
  • it supports threatened species including the nationally endangered Australian painted snipe (Rostratula australis) and winged peppercress (Lepidium monoplocoides).

The Ramsar site is located in the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, managed by Parks Victoria.

The Mallee Catchment Management Authority is responsible for catchment and waterway management in the region. More information on Hattah-Kulkyne Lakes site management can be found in the Mallee Waterway Strategy 2014-2022.

The Hattah-Kulkyne site Ecological Character Description and Information Sheet is available on the Australian Government Department of the Environment website.

Kerang Wetlands

The Kerang Wetlands Ramsar site, situated near Kerang in northern Victoria, about 300 km northwest of Melbourne, is a collection of 23 freshwater and saline wetlands located on the lower floodplain of the Loddon and Avoca rivers.

These wetlands are part of a broader network of over 100 wetlands. The Ramsar site was listed in 1982.

The Kerang Wetlands Ramsar site is internationally significant because:

  • it has a diversity of wetland types
  • it regularly supports over 20,000 waterbirds
  • it is an important area for waterbird breeding with 28 different species recorded as nesting in the site
  • Middle Reedy Lake and Hird Swamp support large breeding colonies of straw-necked ibis and Australian white ibis
  • Third Marsh supports breeding colonies of cormorants and spoonbills.

The Ramsar site also supports threatened species including the nationally endangered Australian painted snipe and the nationally vulnerable growling grass frog.

The Ramsar site consists of conservation reserves managed by Parks Victoria and water supply reserves managed by Goulburn-Murray Water.

The North Central Catchment Management Authority is responsible for the region's catchment and waterway management. The North Central Waterway Strategy 2014-2022 details Kerang Wetlands site management.

The Kerang Wetlands Ramsar site Ecological Character Description and Information Sheet is available on the Australian Government Department of the Environment website.

Amendments to the ecological character description occurred in 2017.

Lake Albacutya

The Lake Albacutya Ramsar site is located in western Victoria north of the town of Rainbow, approximately 400 km north-west of Melbourne. The Ramsar site was listed in 1982.

The formally recognised Traditional Owners for this area are the Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia and Jupagalk Nations, represented by the Barengi Gadjin Land Council Aboriginal Corporation.

Lake Albacutya is one of a series of terminal lakes on the Wimmera River, forming Victoria's largest landlocked drainage system.

The lake rarely fills, but once filled, it holds water for several years and supports large numbers of waterbirds.

The River Red Gum which grows around the edge of Lake Albacutya is globally renowned for its salt-tolerance. The nationally vulnerable Regent Parrot (eastern) depends on tree hollows in the River Red Gums for nesting.

The Ramsar site is in the Lake Albacutya Regional Park managed by Parks Victoria. The Wimmera Catchment Management Authority manages the region's catchment and waterway management.

The Lake Albacutya site Ecological Character Description and Information Sheet is available on the Australian Government Department of the Environment website.

Port Phillip (Western Shoreline) and Bellarine Peninsula

The Port Phillip (Western Shoreline) and Bellarine Peninsula Ramsar site is one of Victoria’s internationally acclaimed wetlands. The Ramsar site was listed in 1982.

The formally recognised Traditional Owners for this area are the Wadawurrung people represented by the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, and the Bunurong people represented by the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation.

The Ramsar site is internationally recognised for supporting:

  • international migratory shorebirds, flying from as far as Russia and Alaska
  • large numbers of waterbirds, on both its natural and artificial wetlands, with annual numbers likely to be in excess of 300,000
  • 12 threatened fauna species and one threatened vegetation community
  • breeding colonies of several species including royal spoonbills, pied cormorants and white-faced storm petrels
  • important habitat for over 50 fish species.

The Ramsar site also provides:

  • winter feeding habitat for the nationally listed critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot
  • an important drought refuge through its wetlands for waterbirds when inland lakes and wetlands dry out
  • notable vegetation includes saltmarsh, seagrass and mangroves.
  • The Ramsar site has 6 geographically distinct wetland areas extending from Point Cook in Melbourne's south-western suburbs to the north shore of Corio Bay north of Geelong and extending to the Bellarine Peninsula and Mud Islands.

    The wetlands are Point Cook-Cheetham, Werribee-Avalon, Point Wilson-Limeburner’s Bay, Lake Connewarre, Swan Bay and Mud Islands.

The main agencies responsible for managing the major wetlands in this site are DEECA, Parks Victoria and Melbourne Water.

The Corangamite Catchment Management Authority is responsible for catchment and waterway management in the southwest sections of the site. Melbourne Water is responsible for catchment management in the areas that cover northeast sections.

The Port Phillip Bay (Western Shoreline) and Bellarine Peninsula site Ecological Character Description and Information Sheet is available on the Australian Government Department of the Environment website.

Western District Lakes

The Western District Lakes Ramsar site is approximately 150 km southwest of Melbourne. The Ramsar site was listed in 1982.

The formally recognised Traditional Owners for this area are the Eastern Maar people represented by the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation

The Ramsar site comprises 9e separate lakes that lie west, north and east of Colac on the Victorian Volcanic Plain between Winchelsea and Camperdown.

Lake Corangamite, one of the 9 lakes of the Ramsar site, is the largest permanent saline lake in Australia but also supports localised groundwater-fed freshwater habitat.

The Western District Lakes Ramsar site is internationally significant because:

  • it supports large numbers of waterbirds, including migratory shorebirds and a breeding colony of the Australian Pelican at Lake Corangamite when conditions are favourable. Lake Beeac is very significant for banded stilt (Cladorhynchus leucocephalus) and red-necked avocet (Recurvirostra novaehollandiae)
  • it supports threatened species including the salt tussock grass and Spiny peppercress (both listed as nationally vulnerable)
  • it supports 2 flora species listed as nationally threatened species, salt-lake tussock-grass and spiny peppercress.

The Ramsar site consists of conservation reserves managed by Parks Victoria. The Corangamite Catchment Management Authority is responsible for the region's catchment and waterway management. Western District Lakes site management is detailed in the Corangamite Waterway Strategy 2014-2022.

Western Port

The Western Port Ramsar site is located 60 km southeast of Melbourne and comprises a large proportion of the Western Port embayment to the north of Phillip Island. It was listed as a Ramsar site in 1982.

The Bunurong people are the formally recognised Traditional Owners for the area and are represented by the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation.

The Ramsar site covers approximately 60,000 hectares and consists of shallow intertidal mudflats, seagrass and fringing saltmarsh and mangrove habitats which support a large number of waterbirds including migratory shorebirds and fish and marine invertebrates.

Due to the marine nature of the Ramsar site it provides habitat year-round and is an area of refuge for waterbirds during summer and drought. The site is listed as part of the Western Port Biosphere Reserve.

The Ramsar site consists of conservation reserves managed by Parks Victoria, other public reserves and waters within Western Port which are managed by DEECA.

Melbourne Water is responsible for catchment and waterway management in the region.

The Western Port Ramsar Site Management Plan (2017), developed by DEECA and agency partners, with input from a broad range of stakeholders, replaces the 2003 Western Port Ramsar Site Strategic Management Plan.

The updated plan incorporates new knowledge about the Western Port site and the overarching strategy and blueprint for managing the site over the next seven years. The objective of the plan is to maintain the site’s ecological character.

The Western Port site Ecological Character Description and Information Sheet is available on the Australian Government Department of the Environment website.

Page last updated: 24/10/23