World Wetlands Day a reminder not to let wetland protection fall by the wayside: Greens


Wetlands are some of the largest carbon reservoirs on earth, storing more than one-third of the world’s terrestrial carbon. In the last 50 years, where data is available, inland and coastal wetlands have declined by around 35 per cent worldwide, three times the rate for forests. 

As a Contracting Party to the Ramsar Convention, Australia made a commitment to designate suitable wetlands for inclusion on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. 

Yet there have been only five new Australian additions to this list for the past decade, making Australia a laggard in comparison to other countries. Remarkably, Tasmania has not had a site listed for 40 years and is the only state in Australia without a Ramsar listing nomination since the 2000s.

Ramsar site nominations can be initiated by the Australian, state and territory governments, non-government organisations, community entities, trusts, Traditional Owners, individuals, private landowners, or a company. However, the cost of preparing a Ramsar submission can be upwards of $100,000. 

This World Wetlands Day the Greens call on the state and federal governments - and all political candidates - to subsidise financial barriers to submitting Ramsar nominations by non-government entities. This is an investment in recognising and celebrating our natural heritage now and for future generations.

Quotes attributable to Greens Senator for Tasmania, Peter Whish-Wilson: 

“Australia is an international laggard when it comes to Ramsar listing our magnificent wetlands. It is a missed opportunity that states like Tasmania have not listed sites for 40 years now while other parts of the world are celebrating their wetlands with international recognition.

“The Australian Government’s own Directory for Important Wetlands lists 89 sites across Tasmania that meet some Ramsar eligibility criteria, with the Robbins Passage-Boullanger Bay wetlands complex meeting almost every single criterion.

“Nearly 20 years ago the Federal Government tried to nominate Robbins Passage-Boullanger Bay as a Ramsar site because of its significance as one of the Southern Hemisphere's most critical shorebird breeding habitats - including for many globally endangered and protected species.

“Proposed nominations on state or private land require support from the relevant state government and unfortunately in this case the short-sighted Tasmanian State Government killed the Robbins Passage-Boullanger Bay nomination on behalf of a few local vested interests.

“If our governments are going to stop throwing their energy behind nominating wetlands for Ramsar listing, they should at least make it viable for the public to pick up the slack.

“As a starting point, the Greens are calling on all sides of politics to commit funds to progressing priority Ramsar wetland nominations.

“In doing so we support the theme of the World Wetlands Day this year which calls for ‘wetlands action for people and nature’, highlighting the importance of actions to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands for human and planetary health.

“There’s never been a more important time to protect the outstanding wetlands we have before inappropriate development and climate change destroy what makes them so unique.”