Australian Wetlands Database

Ramsar wetlands

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Moreton Bay


Key facts and figures:

Date of listing:

22 October 1993

King, Green, St Helena and Mud Islands,  Photo: DEWHA

Australian Ramsar site number:



1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6




113 314 hectares

Drainage Division or IMCRA  region:

Central Eastern Shelf Transition; North-East Coast

Wetland type: 

  • 9 - Canals and drainage channels, ditches
  • A - Permanent shallow marine waters in most cases less than six metres deep at low tide; includes sea bays and straits
  • B - Marine subtidal aquatic beds; includes kelp beds, sea-grass beds, tropical marine meadows
  • C - Coral reefs
  • D - Rocky marine shores; includes rocky offshore islands, sea cliffs
  • E - Sand, shingle or pebble shores; includes sand bars, spits and sandy islets; includes dune systems and humid dune slacks
  • F - Estuarine waters; permanent water of estuaries and estuarine systems of deltas
  • G - Intertidal mud, sand or salt flats
  • H - Intertidal marshes; includes salt marshes, salt meadows, saltings, raised salt marshes; includes tidal brackish and freshwater marshes
  • I - Intertidal forested wetlands; includes mangrove swamps, nipah swamps and tidal freshwater swamp forests
  • J - Coastal brackish/saline lagoons; brackish to saline lagoons with at least one relatively narrow connection to the sea
  • L - Permanent inland deltas
  • M - Permanent rivers/streams/creeks; includes waterfalls
  • O - Permanent freshwater lakes (over 8 ha); includes large oxbow lakes
  • Q - Permanent saline/brackish/alkaline lakes
  • Tp - Permanent freshwater marshes/pools; ponds (below 8 ha), marshes and swamps on inorganic soils; with emergent vegetation water-logged for at least most of the growing season
  • Ts - Seasonal/intermittent freshwater marshes/pools on inorganic soils; includes sloughs, potholes, seasonally flooded meadows, sedge marshes
  • W - Shrub-dominated wetlands; shrub swamps, shrub-dominated freshwater marshes, shrub carr, alder thicket on inorganic soils
  • Xf - Freshwater, tree-dominated wetlands; includes freshwater swamp forests, seasonally flooded forests, wooded swamps on inorganic soils
  • Xp - Forested peatlands; peatswamp forests

Key features of the site:

The Moreton Bay Ramsar site is located in and around Moreton Bay, east of Brisbane in Queensland. Moreton Bay is a semi-enclosed basin bounded on its eastern side by two large sand islands. Islands in the site include all of Moreton Island, and parts of North and South Stradbroke Islands, Bribie Island and the Southern Bay Islands.

Other parts of the site include waters and tributaries of Pumicestone Passage, some intertidal and subtidal areas of the western bay, southern bay and sandy channels of the Broadwater region, marine areas and sand banks within the central and northern bay and some ocean beach habitats.

Wetlands on the site include seagrass and shoals in the eastern banks, tidal flats and associated estuarine assemblages within the Pumicestone Passage, mangroves and saltmarsh in the southern bay, coral communities of the eastern bay, freshwater wetlands and peatland habitats on the Bay Islands and ocean beaches and foredunes on Moreton island.

The extensive Mangrove and tidal flats provide a nursery for fish and crustaceans, and also support birds and other marine life. The sandflats provide roosting sites for migratory birds.

The seagrass areas provide food and habitat for fish, crustaceans, the internationally vulnerable Dugong, and the nationally threatened Loggerhead Turtles, Hawksbill Turtle and Green Turtle. Other nationally threatened species that occupy the site include the Oxleyan Pygmy Perch and Honey Blue-eye, Water Mouse and the Australia Painted Snipe.

The site supports more than 50,000 migratory waders during their non-breeding season. At least 43 species of wading birds use the intertidal habitats, including 30 migratory species listed on international conservation agreements.

The close proximity of the wetlands to Brisbane and other populated areas makes the site a popular recreation area for tourism, birdwatching, water based recreation, scuba diving, four wheel driving, camping and boating. Parts of the site are conservation reserves. Commercial activities such as shipping, transport and fishing also occur within the site.

Moreton Bay Ramsar site lies in the traditional estate of a number of Indigenous groups including the Kabi Kabi, Jagera and Turrbal, Quandamooka (Ngugi, Noonucle, Gorenpul), and Yugambeh and Ngarang-Wal/Kombumeri. Evidence from these excavations and other archaeological sites discovered in Moreton Bay indicates that fishing, the collection of shellfish and the gathering of local food plants were important activities for Indigenous peoples living in the region.

Justification of the listing criteria:

The Moreton Bay Ramsar site meets six of the nine criteria:

Criterion 1: The Moreton Bay Ramsar site is located in the North-east Coast Australian Drainage Division. It is one of the largest estuarine bays in Australia which are enclosed by a barrier island of vegetated sand dunes. Moreton Bay protects the local area from oceanic swells, providing habitat for wetland development. The site receives and channels the flow numerous rivers and creeks east of the Great Dividing Range.

Criterion 2: Moreton Bay supports large numbers of the nationally threatened Green Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle. Other nationally threatened species that the site supports are the Oxleyan Pygmy Perch, Honey Blue-eye, Water Mouse and the Australia Painted Snipe. The site is ranked among the top ten habitats in Queensland for the Internationally vulnerable Dugong.

Criterion 3: The Moreton Bay Ramsar site supports over 355 species of marine invertebrates, at least 43 species of shorebirds, 55 species of algae associated with mangroves, seven species of mangrove and seven species of seagrass. At least 43 species of shorebirds use intertidal habitats in the Bay, including 30 migratory species listed by international migratory bird conservation agreements.

Criterion 4: Moreton Bay is a significant feeding ground for the threatened Green Turtle and is a foraging and breeding ground for the Dugong. The Bay also has the most significant concentration of the young and mature Loggerhead Turtle in Australia.

Criterion 5: The Moreton Bay Ramsar site supports more than 50,000 wintering and staging shorebirds during the non-breeding season.

Criterion 6: The Moreton Bay Ramsar site regularly supports more than 1% of the population the wintering Eastern Curlews and the Grey-tailed Tattler.

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.