World’s first Ramsar Site turns 40

On 8 May 1974, Australia designated Cobourg Peninsula in the Northern Territory as the world’s first Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.

The Cobourg Peninsula, a remote and unspoilt wilderness area on the far northern coast of Australia, was recognized for its diversity of wetland habitats, threatened marine species, significant seabird colonies and value as a refuge and breeding site. It also has a fascinating Indigenous, Macassan and European history.

Wetlands of Cobourg Peninsula. Photo: Michelle McAulay



Cobourg Peninsula, now known as Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, is jointly managed by the Arrarrkbi people and the Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory.  It was the first reserve in Australia to have a formal joint management arrangement established with Indigenous people.

Australia currently has 65 Ramsar Sites across the continent, with an area of 8.3 million hectares, covering coral reefs, coastal lagoons, mangroves, inland rivers,  mountain peat bogs and underground caves.

Video message by Christopher Briggs, Secretary General of the Convention on Wetlands

Further information:
Virtual tour of the site
40th Anniversary page on the website of the Australian Government’s Department of the Environment

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The Convention today

Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
International Importance
2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,342

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