Migratory waterbirds

Australia provides critical non-breeding habitat for millions of migratory waterbirds each year.  To ensure their conservation the Australian Government has fostered international cooperation through a range of important agreements, including the Ramsar Convention and the Convention on Migratory Species, bilateral agreements with Japan, China and the Republic of Korea, and through the East Asian — Australasian Flyway Partnership.  A range of important activities have also been undertaken within Australia to conserve migratory waterbird populations and their habitats.


Wetland habitat loss and degradation is a significant threat to migratory waterbirds, and the conservation of important sites across the Flyway is essential to their survival.  Many pressures are contributing to this degradation, of which population growth and economic development in East and South East Asia are of particular concern.

International cooperation

For over 30 years, Australia has played an important role in international cooperation to conserve migratory birds in the Flyway, entering into bilateral migratory bird agreements with Japan in 1974 (JAMBA), China in 1986 (CAMBA) and most recently the Republic of Korea in July 2007 (ROKAMBA). Each of these agreements provide for the protection of migratory birds from take or trade except under limited circumstances, the protection and conservation of habitats, the exchange of information, and building cooperative relationships.

The Australian Government has entered into three bilateral migratory bird agreements.  These are:


The first two bilateral agreements relating to the conservation of migratory birds were formed with the Government of Japan in 1974, and the People’s Republic of China in 1986.

The JAMBA and CAMBA agreements list terrestrial, water and shorebird species which migrate between Australia and the respective countries. In both cases the majority of listed species are shorebirds.

Both agreements require the parties to protect migratory birds by:

  • limiting the circumstances under which migratory birds are taken or traded;
  • protecting and conserving important habitats;
  • exchanging information; and
  • building cooperative relationships.

The JAMBA agreement also includes provisions for cooperation on the conservation of threatened birds.

Australian government and non-government representatives meet every two years with Japanese and Chinese counterparts to review progress in implementing the agreements and to explore new initiatives to conserve migratory birds.


In April 2002, Australia and the Republic of Korea agreed to develop a bilateral migratory bird agreement similar to the JAMBA and CAMBA.

The ROKAMBA agreement was signed in Canberra on 6 December 2006. The agreement entered into force on 13 July 2007.

The ROKAMBA formalises Australia's relationship with the Republic of Korea in respect to migratory bird conservation and provides a basis for collaboration on the protection of migratory shorebirds and their habitat.

Multilateral cooperation on migratory bird conservation

JAMBA, CAMBA and ROKAMBA provide an important mechanism for pursuing conservation outcomes for migratory birds, including migratory shorebirds. However, the bilateral nature of these agreements limits their scope and ability to influence conservation across the flyway.  Australia has therefore also encouraged multilateral cooperation for migratory bird conservation through the Partnership for the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.

East Asian - Australasian Flyway

The Partnership for the Conservation of Migratory Waterbirds and the Sustainable Use of their Habitats in the East Asian – Australasian Flyway (Flyway Partnership), was launched in Bogor, Indonesia on 6 November 2006. The Partnership focuses international efforts on conserving migratory waterbirds and their habitats in the flyway.

The Partnership builds on the successes of the Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy (APMWCS) and its Action Plans, which have framed international regional cooperation since 1996. The Partnership also complements Australia’s international commitments to protect waterbirds and migratory species under the bilateral migratory bird agreements, the Ramsar Convention and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).

Conservation activities in Australia

Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 (EPBC Act) it provides for protection of migratory waterbirds in Australia as a matter of national environmental significance. The Act also provides for the development of plans to conserve listed species, of which the Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds was the first to be made under the Act in February 2006. The Plan was prepared in consultation with relevant stakeholders and outlines the research and management activities to be implemented over the next 5 years in support of the conservation of the 36 species of migratory shorebirds that visit Australia each year.

Since 1996/1997, the Australian Government has invested approximately $5,000,000 of Natural Heritage Trust funding in projects contributing to migratory shorebird conservation. This funding has been distributed across a range of important projects, including the implementation of a nationally coordinated monitoring program that will produce robust, long-term population data able to support the conservation and effective management of shorebirds and their habitat; migration studies using colour bands and leg flags; and development of a shorebird conservation toolkit to assist users to develop and implement shorebird conservation projects.