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The Shoalwater and Corio Bays Area Ramsar site is part of the largest ‘wilderness’ area within the Central Queensland Coast Biogeographic Region. In 1996 the site was officially listed as a Ramsar Wetland as it met six of the nine selection criterion. As of today, Shoalwater and Corio Bays meet eight criterion. Within the internationally significant site there are a variety of wetland types in a near undisturbed state including; rocky reefs, mangroves, marshes, seagrass beds, tree and shrub-dominated swamps, and peat swamps. This diversity of wetlands, combined with its location midway between the tropical north and the subtropical south-east, has led to a diverse faunal community including threatened species. These species include, but are not limited to the internationally endangered honey blue eye (Pseudomugil mellis), four species of marine turtle, large numbers of shorebirds (waders), and the most substantial populations of dugongs remaining in the southern section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

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Natural Processes Affecting Values

The climate of Shoalwater and Corio Bays is subtropical, with half of all rainfall received in the first few months of each year. The Ramsar site contains a wide range of diverse landscapes including undulating lowlands and hills, riverine plains, sand dunes, mountains and sandy beaches some of which are flanked by coastal cliffs. The Ramsar site also lies in a region which experiences the greatest tidal variation on the east coast of Australia which has formed expansive intertidal wetlands.

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Activities Affecting Values

The three most immediate threats to the Ramsar values within site are (1) unauthorised vehicle use, (2) recreational fishing, and (3) inappropriate fire regimes. Unauthorised vehicle use damages dunes and associated vegetation; recreational fishing can harm marine life through marine debris and boat strikes and inappropriate fire regimes can harm vegetation communities by subjecting them to fire regimes they’re not adapted to.

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Planning, Policies and Documents

The Shoalwater and Corio Bays Area Ramsar site is approximately 239,100 hectares in size and therefore requires implementation of substantial management policy and plans to ensure it remains in good health.

Key documents informing the management of the site include the Ramsar Information Sheet (RIS), Ramsar Management Summary (RMS), Ecological Character Description (ECD) and the Information Sheet on East Asian-Australasian (EAA) Flyway Network Sites.  Other site-specific plans for the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (Department of Defence) and Byfield National Park (Queensland Government) also contain management guidelines and actions for the Ramsar site.

For up-to-date information regarding plans, policies and documents that affect all Queensland wetlands, including Ramsar sites, please refer to the Queensland Department of Environment and Science website.

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Most terrestrial areas of the Shoalwater Bay section are within the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA) and are therefore the responsibility of the Department of Defence. Terrestrial land in the Corio Bay section is contained within the Byfield National Park and is the responsibility of the Queensland Government. The marine waters surrounding the Ramsar site are a combination of State and Australian territorial waters as the water body is partly Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Australian Government) and the other is Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park (Queensland Government). Land use surrounding the Ramsar site includes National Park, military training, freehold land, commercial forest and unallocated State land.

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Despite being in a mostly unmodified area, a number of threats are present at the Shoalwater and Corio Bays Area Ramsar site that could impact its ecological character. These include climate change, fire, commercial fishing, recreational use, pest species, surrounding land use and changes to Defence training.

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Surveys of wetland condition in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (intertidal wetlands, freshwater swamps and streams) provide a broad assessment of wetland health and baselines for future evaluation. Recent surveys conclude that the wetlands overall, are in good condition and are well managed. Furthermore, surveys  of intertidal wetlands confirm the Ramsar site continues to be of international significance for migratory shorebirds.

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List of contacts for organisations involved in managing the Shoalwater and Corio Bays Area Ramsar Site.

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Map of the Shoalwater and Corio Bays Area Ramsar site.

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