Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has joined several conservation groups in calling on an international wetlands watchdog to add the Coorong to its “endangered” list.
In a letter to the Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental treaty on wetland conservation, the groups claim the number of migratory shorebirds in the RAMSAR-listed Lower Lakes and Coorong site are at their lowest levels on record.
“The Coorong has experienced and continues to experience significant adverse changes in its ecological character,” the signatories claim.
“The over-extraction of water from the Murray Darling Basin is having a dramatic effect on the Lakes and Coorong Ramsar site, with dredges now being required to keep the Murray River's mouth open and connected to the sea.
“This critical nursery for shorebirds and estuary specific fish is unlikely to recover without the significant restoration of environmental flows.”
Besides Rebekha on behalf of Centre Alliance, the signatories include Peter Owen, the Director of the Wilderness Society of SA; Craig Wilkins, the Chief Executive of the Conservation Council of SA; Jill Masters, the President of the Hindmarsh Island Landcare Group; and Elizabeth Tregenza, the Secretary of the River Lakes and Coorong Action Group.
Their letter calls for the Coorong and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert Ramsar Wetland to be listed on what is known as the Montreux Record, which is a form of ‘endangered’ watch list on the Ramsar Convention.
The 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention is currently being held in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and ends on 29 October.
During the meeting participants assess the progress of the implementation of the convention and plan their future work.
If Rebekha and her co-signing conservation groups can convince the Ramsar Convention to list the Coorong and Lakes wetland on the watch list, the secretariat will send a questionnaire to the Federal Government to explain the condition of the site and any remediation actions.
“We face the risk of the Murray River dying from the mouth up thanks to decades of inaction and governments dragging their heels over critical river management reforms," Rebekha said.
“The Lakes and Coorong Ramsar site is the largest wave-dominated estuary in Australia, at the end of the third longest navigable river in the world, and it desperately needs a commitment to adequate environmental flows.
“We need to act now to draw international attention to the plight of the Coorong before it is too late and we need to put pressure on the Federal Government to make sure it meets its international obligations to preserve and nurture this unique and precious habitat.”