Australian Wetlands Database

Ramsar wetlands

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Eighty-mile Beach


Key facts and figures:

Date of listing:

07 June 1990

A section of the 220km of coastline of Eighty-mile Beach (2008), Photo: Dragi Markovic

Australian Ramsar site number:



1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


Western Australia


175487 hectares

Drainage Division or IMCRA  region:

Northwest IMCRA Province; North Western Plateau

Wetland type: 

  • E - Sand, shingle or pebble shores; includes sand bars, spits and sandy islets; includes dune systems and humid dune slacks
  • G - Intertidal mud, sand or salt flats
  • I - Intertidal forested wetlands; includes mangrove swamps, nipah swamps and tidal freshwater swamp forests
  • R - Seasonal/intermittent saline/brackish/alkaline lakes and flats
  • Sp - Permanent saline/brackish/alkaline marshes/pools
  • U - Non-forested peatlands; includes shrub or open bogs, swamps, fens
  • Xf - Freshwater, tree-dominated wetlands; includes freshwater swamp forests, seasonally flooded forests, wooded swamps on inorganic soils
  • Xp - Forested peatlands; peatswamp forests
  • Y - Freshwater springs; oases

Key features of the site:

Eighty-mile Beach Ramsar site, located between Port Headland and Broome in north Western Australia, is made up of Eighty-mile Beach and, 40 km to the east, Mandora Salt Marsh. Eighty-mile Beach is a 220 km section of coastline and adjacent intertidal mudflats. Mandora Salt Marsh includes two large seasonal wetlands and a series of small permanent mound springs.

A small number of tidal creeks dissect the beach, including Salt Creek which is fed partly from groundwater and has permanent surface water. The Mandora Salt Marsh lakes fill predominantly from rainfall and runoff in the wet season then dry back to clay beds.

The mound springs likely come from water deep within the Broome sandstone aquifer rising through fractures in the rock, and resulting in permanent mostly freshwater surface water. The permanence of these freshwater wetlands makes them extremely important to biodiversity in the arid area, providing habitat and drinking water in an otherwise dry environment. Mandora Soak contains peat deposits estimated to be about 7 000 years old. Salt Creek, in Mandora Salt Marsh, contains one of only two inland mangrove communities in Australia. Other vegetation includes paperbark, samphire and freshwater aquatic plants.

Eighty-mile Beach is characterised by extensive mudflats supporting an abundance of macroinvertebrates which provide food for large numbers of shorebirds. More than 472,000 migratory waders have been counted on the mudflats during the September to November period.

The site is considered to be one of the major arrival and departure areas for migratory shorebirds visiting Australia, particularly on southward migration. It is one of the most important sites in the world for the migration of Great Knot. Flatback Turtle regularly nest at scattered locations along Eighty-mile Beach.

Eighty-mile Beach is used for beach based recreation, including four-wheel driving, motorcycling, fishing and shell collecting. Mandora Salt Marsh is mainly used for cattle grazing. The site is traditionally part of Karajarri Country in the north, Nyangumarta Country in the south and Ngarla Country in the southern end of Eighty-mile Beach. The site has artefacts such as middens, pinka (large baler shells used to scoop and carry water for drinking), wilura (used for sharpening spear heads), axes, and flakes, and kurtanyanu and jungari (grinding stones).

Justification of the listing criteria:

The Eighty-Mile Beach Ramsar site meets six of the nine criteria:

Criterion 1: Eighty-mile Beach represents the greatest extent of continuous intertidal mudflat in excellent condition within the Northwest (IMCRA) bioregion. In addition, Mandora Salt Marsh contains an important and rare group of wetlands within the arid North Western Plateau bioregion In particular the peat mound springs can be considered both bioregionally rare and outstanding examples of this wetland type in Western Australia.

Criterion 2: The site supports the flatback turtle listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Criterion 3: The Mandora Salt Marsh contains temporary and permanent wetlands in a predominantly arid bioregion (Western Plateau) and has been recognised as important refugia for biological diversity in arid Australia. The inland grey mangroves lining Salt Creek represent the most inland occurrence of this species.

Criterion 4: The Eighty-mile Beach Ramsar site is considered one of the most important sites for stop-over and feeding by migratory shorebirds in Australia; second only to Roebuck Bay in the total number of migratory species for which it is considered internationally important. Furthermore, Eighty-mile Beach represents the most important site internationally (in terms of total number of individuals) for nine species of migratory shorebird in the East Asian-Australasian flyway. Mandora Salt Marsh supports the critical life stage of breeding for at least 13 species of waterbird, including large numbers of Australian pelicans and black swans. In addition, the site is significant for the breeding of at least one species of marine turtle (flatback).

Criterion 5: Eighty-mile Beach is considered to regularly support in excess of 500 000 birds Total counts (summer) for just a 60 km stretch of the 220 km intertidal site are generally more than 200 000. There is a record of 2.88 million oriental pratincoles on the beach in February 2004.

Criterion 6: Eighty-mile Beach supports more than one per cent of the flyway population (or one per cent of the Australian population for resident species) of 21 waterbirds, including 17 migratory species and four Australian residents: greater sand plover, oriental plover, red-capped plover (resident), grey plover, bar-tailed godwit, red knot, great knot, red-necked stint, sanderling, sharp-tailed sandpiper, curlew sandpiper, eastern curlew, little curlew, common greenshank, grey-tailed tattler, terek sandpiper, ruddy turnstone, pied oystercatcher (resident); oriental pratincole, black-winged stilt (resident) and great egret (resident).

Please see the More Information page for additional information on this Ramsar site and access to the Ramsar Information sheets and other associated site documents.