Although the Shoalwater and Corio Bays Area Ramsar site is relatively undisturbed and unmodified compared to other coastal areas, there are still a number of threats which are impacting or have the potential to impact on the ecological character of the site. These threats include:

Climate Change

Climate changes impacting the Ramsar site include increases in mean and maximum temperatures and declines in rainfall and humidity. Impacts from these changes include:

  • the intrusion of saltwater into coastal freshwater wetlands
  • increase in intensity and duration of droughts
  • increased risk and intensity of fires and shifts in flora and fauna populations
  • increases in frequency and intensity of storm events


Inappropriate fire management has the potential to cause immediate change the ecological character of the Ramsar site. Potential impacts include:

  • damage to sensitive wetland ecosystems (particularly peat swamps)
  • invasion by weed species
  • damage to property
  • loss of human life

Commercial Fishing

Commercial fishing is relatively low in the Ramsar site, but may impact the ecological character of the site. Potential impacts include:

  • boat strikes on marine fauna
  • inappropriate practices such as the use of netting – which can entangle marine fauna like dugong and marine turtles.

Recreational Use

Threats from recreational use include:

  • inappropriate practices from recreational fishing such as boat strikes on fauna
  • overharvesting and discarding waste such as fish lines and plastics
  • vehicle activity along the coast that can damage sand dunes, associated vegetation and beach fauna such as shorebirds and marine turtle nests (this problem is of most concern in the Corio Bay section of the site where the public is allowed greater access)
  • increased tourism and recreational use can also disturb fauna, particularly migratory shorebirds which need to rest before migration, and artificial lights can also affect nesting turtles and hatchlings.

Pest Plants and Animals

Invasive weeds can compete with native plants and alter vegetation communities and fire regimes. Introduced animals, such as pigs and deer, can damage wetland ecosystems with hard hooves and destructive foraging behaviour while introduced predators, like foxes and cats, prey on native species including raids on marine turtle nests.  Domestic dogs brought to the beach can also disturb roosting shorebirds and can dig up turtle nests.

Surrounding Land Use

Changes in the land use surrounding the Ramsar site could flow into the site and change its ecological character. For example, an increase in settlement could mean an increase in public usage of the Corio Bay section leading to an increase in problems associated with recreational use. Increases of population or development in urban areas can also increase sediment, nutrient and marine debris loads.  Changes in management in the adjacent commercial forests and grazing properties could have an effect on water quality flowing into the Ramsar site.

Defence Training

Changes in Defence training practices could impact the ecological character through damage to flora and fauna during training exercises, increase in vehicle and equipment activity leading to increased erosion along roads and off-road areas, increased biosecurity risk and changes in fire management. Increases in maritime related exercise activity could increase impacts on marine values.