Moreton Bay: A Natural Wonder

About Moreton Bay

Seen from Space, Moreton Bay shines like a jewel adorning the most easterly part of Australia, reflecting many shades of blue, a natural marine wonderland. Bounded by three main islands protecting it from the Pacific Ocean, Moreton Bay is a tidal lagoon with clear, calm and shallow waters dotted with many, many islands. Aboriginal Australians of the ‘Land Sea Country’ call it “Quandamooka” and evidence of their occupation goes back perhaps 25 000 years.

Extending from the fore-shores of Brisbane, Moreton Bay is internationally recognized for biodiversity and ecological significance. It encompasses unique subtropical reefs and a Ramsar wetland. It is a transitional area where tropical, sub‐tropical and temperate marine species co‐exist, resulting in distinctive habitat and wildlife communities. Moreton Bay is considered one of the most significant marine habitats on the entire east coast of Australia. The hinterland features areas of World Heritage sub-tropical rainforests.

South-east Queensland’s rapidly expanding population – amidst this ‘bio-diversity hot-spot’ – places increasing pressure on Moreton Bay through more pollution, more boat traffic and more coastal development.

Moreton Bay Regional Council (to the north of Brisbane) have a great fact-sheet that lists ‘priority species’, both terrestrial and aquatic, which serves as a good introduction to SEQLD bio-diversity in general:

Wild Guide to Moreton Bay

This comprehensive guide highlights over 1500 species of animals and plants found in Moreton Bay and its surrounding coastal fringe. This edition, now in two volumes with a slipcase, celebrates the diverse marine life and the amazing natural environments of Moreton Bay and southern Queensland.

This new edition of the Queensland Museum’s best-selling, popular guide celebrates the fascinating marine life and outstanding natural environments of Moreton Bay and southern Queensland. Now published in two volumes, the Wild Guide to Moreton Bay and Adjacent Coasts highlights more than 1700 species of animals and plants in easy-to-read accounts and stunning full colour photographs.

Moreton Bay Marine Park

On Brisbane’s doorstep, the wide expanse of Moreton Bay, offshore reefs, its numerous islands, internationally significant wetlands, seagrass meadows and sandy beaches make this park a haven for wildlife and people.

Moreton Bay Marine Park protects a range of marine and coastal environments including rocky shores, internationally significant wetlands, coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass meadows and sandy beaches. These habitats provide important seasonal resources for migratory wading birds, humpback whales and marine turtles. Permanent resident species include dolphins, dugong, shorebirds, grey nurse sharks and various fish species.

The Moreton Bay Marine Park was established in 1993 and re‐zoned in 2009, expanding coverage of no‐take zones to 16%. The Park is again due for review in the next few years. Both commercial and recreational fishing activities are notable considerations.

Very detailed maps of different parts of the bay are in the Marine Park User Guide here:

Globally, Moreton Bay and Pumicestone Passage are unique aquatic environments, supporting a rich variety of aquatic habitats and species, from seagrass meadows, coral beds, fish and crustaceans, to turtles and dugongs.

Source: State of the Brisbane River, Moreton Bay and Waterways, 1996

Cylinder Beach, North Stradbroke Island

Amity Point, North Stradbroke Island

.. a good dozen rivers flow into Moreton Bay, their upper reaches originating 100kms or further away. Increasing millions of people live within their watersheds, all affecting water quality in the bay.

Healthy Waterways

South East QLD waterways are under increasing pressure from a rapidly growing population and unpredictable climate. The major issue affecting waterway health is the increased amount of mud (or sediment) entering waterways – and nutrients – and litter are also a serious pollution problems affecting waterways, wildlife and recreation.

Healthy Waterways works to understand and communicate the condition of the waterways to drive and influence future targets, policy and actions. Healthy Waterways was built on a foundation of rigorous science which continues to underpin the organisation’s programs and initiatives.

A forest of papers going back decades supports these assertions. There is an extensive searchable public record of how today’s efforts to monitor & manage waterways have evolved. See for example a long list of papers about water quality from QLD’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection here:

One succinct paper from CSIRO summarising the academic literature about sediment inflows into Moreton Bay here:

UNEP / Woods Hole Paper on Reactive Nitrogen in the Environment: only 17 of 100 units of nitrogen applied to the crop system ends up in the food we eat.

Then there’s Turtles eating Plastic:

Abstract of UQ Researcher Qamar Schuyler’s paper Global analysis of anthropogenic debris ingestion by sea turtles is here:


Moreton Bay is one of only three extensive intertidal areas of seagrass, mangroves and saltmarsh on the eastern coast of Australia that provide habitat for waterbirds. It has high species diversity recorded, with 27 species being recorded only from Moreton Bay. (Davies et al 1998). More recent information below.

Resident seabirds and shorebirds include herons, terns, oystercatchers, egrets and cormorants and each year Moreton Bay is visited by 50,000 migratory shorebirds. Some travel as far as Siberia and back. From October to April – more than 30 different shorebird species live in this area busy feeding to build up energy for their return trip to East Asia.

Australia is signatory to international agreements protecting significant wetlands and also migratory birds.

“Shore Birds in Crisis”, a document by Birdlife Australia profiling endangered migratory shorebirds is available for download here:

Moreton Bay is a RAMSAR wetland site.

The Australian Government Department of Environment website has comprehensive information about Ramsar wetlands and lists publications and resources available here (many downloadable):

Bar-tailed Godwit feeding on tidal-flat

Don’t miss this excellent video on Moreton Bay’s Shorebirds:

Dugongs, Turtles and Seagrass

50% of Australia’s seagrasses have been destroyed by dredging and pollution.

Seagrasses are the primary food source for dugongs and sea turtles. An adult green turtle eats about two kilograms of seagrass a day while an adult dugong eats about 28 kilograms of seagrass a day. Moreton Bay is a significant habitat for loggerhead and other sea turtles – the most important population along the east coast of Australia.

Moreton Bay Marine Park is home to 7-8 different species of seagrasses which together cover 25,000 ha of deep and shallow water areas. Since 1987, Moreton Bay Marine Park has lost a staggering 20% of seagrasses, which means lost productivity and loss of turtle and dugong food.

Data and Trends 2005 from SeagrassWatch program archived here:

Healthywaterways Seagrass Kids Fact sheet downloadable here:

Historically, herds of dugongs grazed on seagrass meadows throughout the entire bay, however, extensive loss of seagrass meadows on the western side of the bay, has largely reduced suitable grazing areas for these animals. As a result, their distribution is primarily restricted to seagrass meadows in Eastern Moreton Bay. Population statistics range from 1500 down to 6-800 with the lower range more likely.

The Dugong Collective, a friendly proactive community based awareness ‘fraternity’, are developing activities & projects here:

Then there’s Turtles eating Plastic:

Abstract of UQ Researcher Qamar Schuyler’s paper Global analysis of anthropogenic debris ingestion by sea turtles is here:


Scientists estimate that 75% of the commercially caught fish and prawns in Queensland spend at least some part of their life cycle living in the mangroves.

Mangrove forests play an active role in nutrient recycling and provide nurseries for juvenile fish, crabs and prawns. In Moreton Bay Marine Park, 7-8 species of mangroves occupy around 15,300 ha.

The shallow nature and vast intertidal zones of the southern half of Moreton Bay, makes it one of the world’s significant wetland environments.

Mangrove Watch, a monitoring program that partners mangrove scientists and community participants:

The connections between Habitat, Fishing and “no-take zones” are worth exploring further – perhaps starting here:

The Marine Education Society of Australia (MESA) – the folks who’ve for decades brought us “SeaWeek” have a mangrove resource page here:

Pictures from UniDive Point Lookout Ecological Assessment are on Flickr here:
UniDive volunteers during one of the survey weekends


Moreton Bay Marine Park is fortunate to have some of the most southern located reef-building corals on the East Coast of Australia. The bay and surrounding area, including Flinders Reef, has up to 173 species in 42 genera, about a quarter of all species of the Indo-Pacific. A high proportion of these have growth-form variations seldom seen elsewhere.

Coral Watch ( ), Reef Check ( ), the UQ UniDive Club (‐projects/) and other groups and individuals conduct surveys and monitor health of underwater communities at Moreton Bay sites.

An Ecological Assessment around Point Lookout, North Stradbroke Island was conducted during 2015.

UQ News article is here:

Point Lookout Ecological Assessment Final Report is here:

Barrier Reef coral scientist Dr John ‘Charlie’ Veron has dived on the Great Barrier Reef for 45 years. He has identified 20 per cent of the world’s coral species and earned himself a reputation as the “Godfather of Coral.”

“Unknown to most people, Moreton Bay has an extraordinary diversity of corals [and] the coral communities of Moreton Bay are so unusual they have few parallels anywhere in the world and none in Australia. This observation can hardly be overstated. For example, the most recently discovered of all corals, Heteropsammia moretonensis, is found nowhere else. For another example, I named Astreopora moretonensis after the region because it is common and forms large colonies there, but is rarely seen elsewhere. The word ‘unique’ is often overplayed but the corals of Moreton Bay are indeed that, to an exceptional degree.”

Threats to Moreton Bay

South-east Queensland’s rapidly expanding population places increasing pressure on Moreton Bay through more pollution, more boat traffic and more coastal development. 5.5 million people are projected to live near Moreton Bay catchments by 2050:

Massive new developments such as the Toondah Harbour proposal are planned:

Each year threatened turtles and dugongs are injured or killed from pollution, boat strike and marine debris within Moreton Bay Marine Park. These and many other issues from the disappearance of Shorebirds, water quality, threats to Fishing are explored in greater detail on many other links and other websites. Please let us know about errors or anything we might have missed.

More & More links:

Red Flying Foxes roosting