Australian Wetlands Database

Ramsar wetlands

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East Coast Cape Barren Island Lagoons


Key facts and figures:

Date of listing:

16 November 1982

Cape Barren Island (2009),  Photo: Andrew Roberts

Australian Ramsar site number:



1, 3




4,473 hectares

Drainage Division or IMCRA  region:

Tasmanian Drainage Division

Wetland type: 

  • 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
  • J - Coastal brackish/saline lagoons; brackish to saline lagoons with at least one relatively narrow connection to the sea
  • K - Coastal freshwater lagoons; includes freshwater delta lagoons
  • N - Seasonal/intermittent/irregular rivers/streams/creeks

Key features of the site:

The East Coast Cape Barren Island Lagoons Ramsar site is located on the east coast of Cape Barren Island, one of the Furneaux Group of islands which lie in Bass Strait to the north-east of Tasmania. The site extends from just north of Tar Point down to Jamieson's Bay and extends westwards from the coast for a distance varying from one to four kilometres.

It comprises a complex of freshwater, brackish, saline and sometimes hypersaline lagoons, wetlands and estuaries that owe their existence to a dune system which has been slowly developing in an easterly direction, leaving shallow sandy soils, depressions and intermittently flowing water courses.

The vegetation of the site is characterised by a tussock grassland of the exotic species Marram Grass on the foredunes, with a closed-scrub of Coastal Wattle, Prickly Moses and Marram Grass stabilising the hind dunes. Coastal Wattle, Silver Banksia and Southern Grass Tree form an open scrub on the sand plains behind these dunes, with further inland areas dominated by Manna Gum, Swamp Gum and Smithton Peppermint.

This extensive system of shallow coastal lagoons contains a number of species that are considered to be of special botanical interest, including the Scarce Centrolepis which is rare at both a state and national level. Pointed Centrolepis, Sharpleaf Rush, Water Milfoil, Sago Pondweed, and Round-leaf Wilsonia are also found within the site.

Locally significant numbers of duck species for the Flinders bioregion utilise this area. In addition, the Ramsar site is of great importance for the Hooded Plover.

This area is of cultural importance to the local Indigenous community, who manage the freehold title to part of Cape Barren Island, including the Ramsar site. Access is currently restricted, keeping the site largely undisturbed, with a single bush track for 4WD vehicles providing access for duck hunters to Flyover Lagoon.

Justification of the listing criteria:

The East Coast Cape Barren Island Lagoons Ramsar site meets two of the nine criteria:

Criterion 1: The East Coast Cape Barren Island Lagoons site is significant as it forms a representative sample of coastal lagoons in the Flinders Biogeographic Region and is relatively undisturbed. The Cape Barren Dunes, within the site, are a geoconservation site in Tasmania. Thirsty Lagoon is a hypersaline lagoon and is a Tasmanian estuary of critical conservation significance. Three of the lagoons within the site, Flyover Lagoon 1, Flyover Lagoon 2 and Little Thirsty Lagoon, have been assessed as near pristine wetlands for Tasmania.

Criterion 3: The Ramsar site is an important habitat for a number of plant species and vegetation communities. Thirteen threatened species listed in Tasmania occur on the site, including the Furze Hakea and Horny Cone Bush. The site represents the only known reserve in Tasmania for the threatened Pink Bladderwort. The White-bellied Sea Eagle, listed as vulnerable in Tasmania, and the Ruddy Turnstone listed under international migratory conservation agreements, also occur within the site.

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.