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The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, more commonly referred to as the ‘Ramsar Convention’, was ratified in the Iranian City of Ramsar in 1971. The Convention saw the adoption of a world first international environmental treaty with the broad aims of halting and, where possible, reversing, the worldwide loss of wetlands and to conserve those that remain through wise use and effective management.
Under the terms of the Convention contracting parties nominate wetlands to be designated as Wetlands of International Importance, with nominated sites (Ramsar sites) required to meet at least one of nine listing criteria. The criteria consider factors such as the uniqueness of the wetland, the threatened species and communities it supports and the importance of the site for their survival. The act of designating a wetland as a Ramsar site carries with it certain obligations, including managing the site to maintain its ‘ecological character’ and to have procedures in place to detect if any threatening processes are likely to, or have altered, the ‘ecological character’. Ecological character is defined as:
Ecological character is defined as:
“The combination of the ecosystem components, processes and benefits/services [C.P.S] that characterise the wetlands at a given point in time” and “…change in ecological character is the human induced adverse alteration of any ecosystem component, process and or ecosystem benefit/service.”
Ref: Ramsar Convention (2005)
The Ecological Character Description for the Gippsland Lakes site can be found here.
The Gippsland Lakes Ramsar Site is located approximately 300 km east of Melbourne in the state of Victoria in south-east Australia. The site extends from Sale Common east to Lake Tyers covering an area of approximately 60,000 ha.
The Gippsland Lakes are recognised internationally as a Ramsar site for their very significant environmental values. The site is important for the abundance and diversity of wetland areas, waterbirds and native fish as well as a range of wetland types that support habitat for threatened species, important vegetation communities and migratory bird species.
East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority is the Ramsar ‘site coordinator’ for the Gippsland Lakes and through this role has a responsibility for the implementation of the Gippsland Lakes Ramsar Site Management Plan and its renewal.
The Gippsland Lakes Ramsar Site has a variety of land tenures and waters that are managed by different organisations including Traditional Owners (represented by the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation and the Gunaikurnai Traditional Owner Land Management Board), Parks Victoria, DEECA, Gippsland Ports, East Gippsland Shire Council and Wellington Shire Council. Several other agencies, including Catchment Management Authorities, have key responsibilities for catchment, land, water resources and waterways. Management of this large and complex natural system requires a strategic approach to direct government and community resources.
The Gippsland Lakes Ramsar Site Management Plan establishes the framework for the maintenance of the site’s ecological character through conservation and wise use. The concept of ‘wise use’ is about maintaining wetland values and functions, while at the same time allowing for sustainable human activities such as water use, recreation, and fishing.
The Gippsland Lakes Ramsar Site Management Plan:
A requirement of listing under the Ramsar Convention is that the management plan is reviewed at intervals of no more than seven years. There has also been significant progress in our understanding of the Gippsland Lakes and actions that can be undertaken to address key threats to the site’s ecological character.
A consultative and collaborative process is underway to review and update the Gippsland Lakes Ramsar Site Management Plan. Public feedback will be invited on the Draft Management Plan, which will be released in late 2023 via the Engage Victoria website. Feedback on the draft plan will be considered in preparation of the final management plan.
The new plan will be released in early 2024, once approved by the Minister for Water.