Under-represented wetland types in the Ramsar "List of Wetlands of International Importance"


Coral Reefs and the Ramsar Convention

For more than 30 years, the Ramsar Convention has been the principal instrument for international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. Adopted in Iran in 1971, it was the first of the modern global conservation treaties, and is still the only one dedicated to a particular ecosystem type. Parties to the Convention have committed themselves to designating all of their "suitable wetlands", based upon criteria developed over the years, for inclusion in the List of Wetlands of International Importance (the "Ramsar List") and maintaining their ecological character through management planning for their conservation and sustainable use.

Coral reefs

The Ramsar Convention's definition of "wetlands" is intentionally broad, including amongst many other types all "areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres" (Article 1.1), but also explicitly allowing the inclusion in the Ramsar List of "coastal zones adjacent to the wetlands, and islands or bodies of marine water deeper than six metres at low tide lying within the wetlands" (Article 2.1). Thus according to the Ramsar Classification System for Wetland Types, coral reefs figure prominently as Number 3 amongst the categories of marine and coastal wetlands. Some of the best-known internationally important wetlands in the Ramsar List are coral sites located in Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, Djibouti, Ecuador, France, Guinea, Honduras, Islamic Republic of Iran, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, United Kingdom and Venezuela. In several of these countries the sites go deeper than 6 metres, in accordance with Article 2.1.

The Ramsar Secretariat's lead person on coral reef issues is Margarita Astrálaga, astralaga@ramsar.org.

Ramsar Resolutions and Recommendations most directly related to coral reefs

Resolution VIII.4 Principles and guidelines for incorporating wetland issues into Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM)
Resolution VIII.11 Additional guidance for identifying and designating under-represented wetland types as Wetlands of International Importance
Resolution VIII.14 New Guidelines for management planning for Ramsar sites and other wetlands
Recommendation 6.7 Conservation and wise use of coral reefs and associated ecosystems

Other coral-related links

News and Other Items on the Ramsar Web site
(reverse chronology)

Illustrated report of the ICRI Coordination and Planning Committee meeting, Turks and Caicos Islands, November 2003 (Margarita Astrálaga)
Recommendations of the Coral Reef Management Issues Workshop, Global Conference on Oceans, Coasts and Islands, UNESCO, Paris, November 2003
Illustrated report of the ICRI Coordination and Planning Committee meeting, Gland, Switzerland, May 2003 (Margarita Astrálaga)

Wetlands of International Importance ("Ramsar Sites") with significant coral components

Adobe PDF format
No. Sites
Surface Area (hectares)
Ramsar Sites in which coral reefs (type C) dominate or are significantly present

(The above list is current as of 29 September 2006.)

For detailed and up-to-date information on Ramsar Sites, use the Ramsar Sites Information Service search facilities on the Ramsar Sites Database (http://www.wetlands.org/rsis/) maintained by Wetlands International.

Additional background

-- Photo at the top of the page, copyright SPREP.

Back to top
Follow us 
Ramsar Awards 

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): 208,674,247

Ramsar Secretariat

Rue Mauverney 28
CH-1196 Gland, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 22 999 0170
Fax: +41 22 999 0169
E-Mail: ramsar@ramsar.org
Map: click here

Ramsar Forum: subscribe