Moreton Bay is a bay located on the eastern coast of Australia 14
kilometres (8.7 mi) from central Brisbane, Queensland. It is one
of Queensland's most important coastal resources. The waters of
Moreton Bay are a popular destination for recreational anglers and are
used by commercial operators who provide seafood to market.
The Port of
Brisbane coordinates large traffic along the shipping
channel which crosses the northern section of the bay. The bay serves
as a safe approach to the airport and reduces noise pollution over the
city to the west of the runway. A number of barge, ferry and
water-taxi services also travel over the bay.
Moreton Bay was the site of conflict between the indigenous
Quandamooka people and early European settlers. It contains
environmentally significant habitats and large areas of sandbanks. The
bay is the only place in Australia where dugong gather into herds.
Many parts of the mainland foreshore and southern islands are settled.
Moreton Bay is described as lagoonal because of the existence of a
series of off-shore barrier islands that restrict the flow of oceanic
water. The tidal range is moderate at 1.5–2 metres (4 ft
11 in–6 ft 7 in) in range.
Moreton Bay has an average
depth of 6.8 metres (22 ft). This shallow depth lets light
filter through to the seafloor, allowing an array of marine plants to
grow which support a diverse range of fauna. The bay itself covers
1,523 square kilometres (588 sq mi) and has a catchment area
14 times larger, covering 21,220 square kilometres
(8,190 sq mi). The waters of the bay are mostly blue in
colour. Western parts of the bay are sometimes tinted green from
algae, brown from suspended sediments or yellow-brown from humic
In 2009 as part of the
Q150 celebrations, the
Moreton Bay was
announced as one of the
Q150 Icons of
Queensland for its role as a
1.1 Early history
1.2 European exploration and settlement
1.3 European contact with Aborigines
2 Geography and natural history
2.2 Flora and fauna
2.3 Ship strikes to marine megafauna
2.3.1 Southern right whales
3.1 Environmental threats
3.2 Federal government protection
Queensland government protection
4 Economic aspects
6 See also
7 External links
Moreton Bay was formed roughly 6000 years ago as the sea level rose
and inundated what was then the floodplains of the
Moreton Bay and its islands were inhabited by indigenous tribes.
In indigenous economy was very rich, one of the strongest for its
productive yields of edible natural resources on the Australian
continent. Of particular importance for the intertribal trade and
ceremonial life were in particular massive oyster beds, the annual
mullet catch, and bunya nut harvesting, on the coast and inland,
which led to annual migrations either way to enjoy the abundance of
the respective tribal group's territory. In the 1840s, resident white
administrators estimated the aboriginal population of the area to be
around 4,000. They were only outnumbered with the influx over the
five-year period of 1850-1855 with saw the disembarkation of 3,000
European migrants on their land.
European exploration and settlement
Matthew Flinders sailed between
Moreton Island and
Bribie Island in
Moreton Bay made in 1842 by Robert Dixon (high resolution
Land for sale in Manly in 1887
[[File:StateLibQld 1 68019 Pile Lights at the mouth of the Brisbane
River, Moreton Bay, ca. 1912.jpgrightthumb
Moreton Bay Pile Light,
Moreton Bay in 1915
Fishing from the shore in Moreton Bay, 1936
Beach scene, Sandgate December 1937
The first of the
Tangalooma Wrecks were placed in 1963, one year after
the whaling station ceased operations.
View of Port of
Brisbane and southern Moreton Bay
Bribie Island and entrance to Pumicestone Channel
The islands of southern Moreton Bay
Sandbanks in Moreton Bay
Marina at Cleveland, 2006
Godwits feeding on Cleveland foreshore in area proposed for marina
Mangroves, Toondah Harbour, Cleveland
Moreton Bay bug
Moreton Bay fig, Cleveland Point, 1938
A grey-tailed tattler feeding on the shoreline in Redcliffe, SE
Toondah Harbour, Cleveland
Cassim Island viewed from G.J. Walter Park, Cleveland
The foreshore at Manly, 2004
Foreshores of the bay at Scarborough, 2007
The name Morton's Bay was given by
Captain Cook when he passed the
area on 15 May 1770, honouring Lord Morton, president of the Royal
Society. The spelling Moreton was an error in the first published
account of Cook's voyage (Hawkesworth's Voyages). Cook gave the
name only to the bight formed by the northern end of Stradbroke Island
(in 1770, there was only one island) and the eastern side of Moreton
Island. He was unaware of the South Passage (as it's now called)
between the two islands, and did not sail into what is the present
Matthew Flinders was the first recorded European to enter the bay in
1799 touching down at the Pumicestone Passage, Redcliffe and
Coochiemudlo Island. He was followed by
John Oxley who explored the
Brisbane River in 1823. On a subsequent visit in the following year,
Oxley established the first European settlement in the bay at the
present site of Redcliffe.
After Oxley in 1823 came convicts and soldiers. As the South Passage
between Moreton and Stradbroke Islands was the shortest shipping
route, a depot and pilot station were established at Amity Point in
European settlement began in earnest after the abandonment of the
Redcliffe settlement, and work began on the new convict settlement
several miles up the
Brisbane River in 1825. Within a couple years
this new settlement was growing rapidly and the number of ships
entering the bay was increasing. As a result, the facilities required
to service the pilot station at Amity grew, and in 1827 convicts were
sent to the island to build a new causeway at Dunwich, remnants of
which can still be found on the same site. Within a year the first
permanent European settlement at Dunwich had been built. Due to
poor weather, smuggling, and conflict with aborigines this convict
out-station was difficult to sustain and was closed in 1831.
The first immigrant ship from England, the Artemisia, reached Moreton
Bay in December 1848 after a four-month journey. The next year saw
the arrival of the Fortitude carrying more free immigrants to the
By the 1850s the region's earliest industry was utilising the bay for
the transport of timber. After felling, the logs were dragged or
rolled into flooded streams from where they were washed downstream to
tidal reaches and bound together into rafts. After the floods had
ceased and tides returned to normal, the currents of the bay and
sometimes boats were used to direct the timber north to the Brisbane
River or to Dunwich for shipment to Sydney.
The bay was home to the Lightship Rose which provided a permanent
navigation aid to passing ships at the mouth of the
John Oxley was another notable boat which temporarily acted as a
Car ferries began crossing the bay to reach
North Stradbroke Island
North Stradbroke Island in
1947, leading to an increase in tourism on the island. In the
1950s both sand mining and the first land sales at Point Lookout
On 1 September 2007 four people were killed in a boat accident on the
bay, two kilometres from the
Pinkenba boat ramp. Ten others were
Moreton Bay has at least 102 shipwrecks of which 26 have their exact
European contact with Aborigines
At first the Quandamooka tribes had a choice of avoiding contact or
engaging with the Europeans at the various small government
institutions that were established on the mainland and on Minjerribah
(Stradbroke Island). Aboriginal labour and resources were, however,
voluntarily supplied to assist these newcomers for
example, at the pilot station
Problems came about when the newcomers displayed a lack of respect for
Aboriginal marriage rules, stole bones and other artefacts and
desecrated sites important to the Aboriginals. This produced a
period of conflict through the 1830s, sometimes followed up by
reprisals with guns, during which a number of Aboriginal people were
Like the mainland tribes, the Nooghie, Noonuccal and Goenpul people
Moreton Bay was opened up to free settlers. The
mainland Aboriginal people in particular were progressively deprived
of the traditional hunting grounds and food. When they turned to
killing domestic stock to survive, they were rounded up and
shot. As their tribal groups and way of life
disintegrated, many drifted towards towns and cities. Because of their
isolation, the people of the islands, however, managed to keep a lot
of their traditional ways alive.
In 1843, Catholic missionaries chose Dunwich as the site for the first
Catholic mission to Australian Aborigines. The sand islands of
Quandamooka did not support pasturage suitable for sheep and cattle,
and thus there did not occur conversion of large tracts of land into
farms and pastoral properties and the subsequent widespread
annihilation and displacement of Aboriginal people.
The very existence of the quarantine station on
Stradbroke Island from
1850 to the 1870s led to the official discouragement of pastoralism or
wider settlement for fear of spreading disease. Another reason for
discouraging settlement was to reduce the likelihood of incoming
vessels to the bay evading customs duty.
Thus the European usage and occupation of Quandamooka in the 19th
century was largely restricted to government institutions on small
portions on the islands, and with free enterprise business men like
the Campbell brothers who ran a saltworks and sugar plantations on
Russell and Macleay islands, and the early fishing and oystering
businesses in the bay who employed the Aboriginal people of
Aboriginal peoples were a source of labour for various institutions
and enterprises from the time of the first pilot station. Conflict
with Europeans intensified during the middle part of the 19th century,
leading to significant numbers of Aboriginal people being killed
(including at the hands of the native police).
Despite these conflicts other Aboriginal people were able to evade
intense contact due to the lack of European activity on the bay
islands. From the 1830s to 1865 there remained virtual exclusive
Aboriginal possession of most of Quandamooka. However trade and social
interaction with the mainland groups gradually diminished due to the
outward march of pastoral settlement on the mainland. This resulted in
irreparable damage to indigenous social networks and patterns of group
intermarriage, as well as joint ceremonial activities.
Geography and natural history
The bay extends some 125 kilometres (78 mi) from
Caloundra in the
north almost to Surfers Paradise in the south. The bay's southern
navigation entrance is the Gold Coast Seaway. The bay is 35 kilometres
(22 mi) across at its widest point.
It is separated from the
Coral Sea by a chain of three sand islands:
Moreton Island in the north, North Stradbroke Island, and South
Stradbroke Island in the south. Tipplers Passage is the main channel
on the western coast of South Stradbroke Island. The Gold Coast Seaway
is at the southern extent of Moreton Bay, before the Gold Coast
The bay itself contains around 360 islands in total. This includes the
populated Russell, Macleay, Lamb and Karragarra Islands collectively
known as the Southern
Moreton Bay Islands.
Residential development has
also occurred on
Coochiemudlo Island and Bribie Island. In the past
Peel Island has been used as a sisal plantation, quarantine station,
asylum and a leper colony.
Moreton Bay is generally shallow and sandy, though a substantive
channel is maintained to allow access to the Port of
Fisherman Islands at the mouth of the
Brisbane River, for
international shipping. As well as the
Brisbane River, the Pimpama
River, Logan River, Albert River, Pine River,
Tingalpa Creek and the
Schulz Canal all empty into Moreton Bay. Within
Moreton Bay are the
smaller bays of Waterloo Bay, Redland Bay, Raby Bay, Deception Bay and
The bay contains a number of island villages such as the settlement on
the bayside of Moreton Island,
Tangalooma and on North Stradbroke,
Dunwich and Amity Point. Prominent coastal communities and mainland
suburbs situated on the bay include Deception Bay, Scarborough,
Redcliffe, Margate, Woody Point, Brighton, Sandgate, Cleveland,
Victoria Point and Redland Bay. Other attractions in the bay include
Pumicestone Passage and numerous boat ramps, marinas and jetties,
including the Shorncliffe pier.
Moreton Bay is filled with sandbanks from sand supplied via littoral
drift along the coast of Moreton Island. The field of sandbanks
extends across the entrance to
Moreton Bay and evolved after sea level
reached its present position, about 6,500 years ago after the last ice
Tangalooma and Skirmish Point on
Bribie Island are the
Middle Banks, Central Banks and Western Banks. From north of Moreton
Caloundra are the Yulle Road, Spitfire Bank, and the
Salamander Bank, amongst others.
Amity Banks are found just west of Amity Point, while the Moreton
Banks lie to the west of the southern tip of Moreton Island. These
banks can be hazard for marine navigation because they are constantly
changing due to tidal currents.
The Middle Banks area close to
Moreton Island has been used in the
past as a source of sand for large projects such as the nearby
Brisbane Airport and port facilities. Past dredging has removed
18 million metres3 and the removal of another 40 million
metres3 is planned. Future sand extraction is expected to aid a
major shipping channel straightening project.
To ensure the shipping channel remains open, several areas of the bay
have been allocated for dredged material dumping sites. These sites
have been selected to provide beach nourishment, aiding the natural
long shore transport of sand along ocean beaches.
Flora and fauna
The bay's heritage protected wetlands, mudflats, and waterways are
some of the healthiest in the region, supporting seasonally up to 25%
of Australia's bird species. The combination of muddy habitats on
the western side of the bay and sandy habitats on the eastern side of
the bay together with coral and seagrass beds support more than 43
species of shorebird. Collectively, around 50,000 wading birds
Moreton Bay each year, and its wetlands are classified
BirdLife International as an
Important Bird Area
Important Bird Area (IBA). In its
Shorebird Management Strategy, the
Queensland Government notes that:
"Moreton Bay's extensive intertidal areas are essential for shorebirds
as they provide roosting, feeding and, in some cases, breeding
The bay is also home to other abundant wildlife, including whales,
dolphins, dugong, sharks and turtles. The loggerhead turtle population
in the bay is the most significant in the country.
The bay is ranked among the top ten dugong habitats in Australia and
together with the Gulf of Carpentaria and Torres Strait is considered
one of the most important areas for dugong in Queensland. Moreton
Bay is the only place in Australia where dugongs gather in herds.
In the past the dugongs in herds numbered in the thousands. Some herds
5 km long by 250 m wide were seen during the 1800s. In
2009, there were just between 600 and 800 remaining.
Many whale and dolphin species can be found in
Moreton Bay including
humpback whales, killer whales, southern right whales, sperm whales,
melon-headed whales, blue whales, Bryde's whales, minke whales, common
dolphins, spinner dolphins and Risso's dolphins. Under Australia's
EPBC Act the southern right whale is listed as endangered and the
humpback whale is listed as vulnerable. Commercial tour operators
offer whale watching cruises between June and September each year.
Most of larger cetaceans observed in the bay are humpbacks, and
several smaller dolphins live or regularly visit the bay.
Moreton Bay bug
Moreton Bay bug (
Thenus orientalis) is a species of slipper
lobster found throughout the waters of Australia's north coast. The
bug is a relatively expensive delicacy served in many restaurants in
Moreton Bay fig
Moreton Bay fig (Ficus macrophylla) is a large tree endemic to the
east coast of Australia within a range centred on the shores and
surrounds of Moreton Bay.
The southern and western parts of the bay contain shallow mud-layered
waters that are protected from strong wave action by the barrier
islands. This has provided excellent habitat for mangroves of which
seven different species thrive within the bay.
About 1% of the bay is coral reef. Land clearing and settlement in
the catchment has led to unfavourable conditions for coral growth.
Climate change is expected to raise sea levels and produce warmer
waters that will aid coral growth in the bay.
The bay may experience widespread outbreaks of bacteria lyngbya which
can cause skin lesions and asthma attacks upon contact.
Ship strikes to marine megafauna
One of serious threats to marine animals in
Moreton Bay is
ship-strikes. Dugongs and turtles in
Moreton Bay are often killed or
injured when struck by speeding boats.
Southern right whales
Unlike the southern and south-western population of Australia,
southern right whales off the east coast of Australia, along with the
west coast, Tasmania, and eastern Victoria, are critically endangered,
consisting of only 10 or more individuals. Whales have not been
seen on the east coast for many years (unlike humpbacks) as the first
whale came back to both Australia and
New Zealand in the early
'60s, largely due to mass illegal hunts by the Soviet Union with
support from Japan although at first it was reported to take only
Recent increases in sightings along the east coast indicate very slow
but certain recovery of the species in that area, and
Moreton Bay was
possibly used to be a prominent calving ground for these coast-loving
whales. Very small but steady appearances of southern rights have
been confirmed in Moreton Bay, Gold Coast, and Hervey Bay.
Seasonal presences of right whales have been recorded in Moreton Bay
at least in the late '90s, and small family groups of whales have
been observed visiting the southern bay each year since 2002,
especially around Toondah Harbour.
However, there was an instance of a southern right whale being fatally
struck by a ferry in August 2014. This whale was a calf, and her
mother was also seriously injured by the accident and her fate is
still unknown. Another southern right whale, possibly with a calf was
also hit few days prior to the incident with a sighting of possibly
the same whales near Victoria Point. These ship-strikes and
entanglements in fishing gear may contribute severely to preventing
the future re-establishment of the species in the former habitats.
Moreton Bay's sea grass beds and corals are subject to ongoing threat
from soil run-off caused by agriculture in the Lockyer Valley and
construction activity in south east Queensland. Professor John Olley
has noted that mud is now flowing out to
Moreton Bay 10 times as fast
as it did before Europeans settled in the region 120 years ago.
The 2013 Healthy Waterways Report shows a downward trend in the
ecosystem health of
Moreton Bay over the period from 2012 to 2013,
with water quality also affected by major flood events such as those
in 2009 and 2011.
After the 2011
Brisbane River floods washed contaminated water into
the bay, commercial fishermen and recreation anglers were warned not
catch or eat seafood from its waters. The flood plume was
investigated to monitor its impact on the bay's marine ecosystems. It
contained sewerage, pesticides, heavy metals such as lead and zinc as
well as hydrocarbons.
An oil spill occurred in March 2009 from the MV Pacific Adventurer
dumping 100 tonnes (98 long tons; 110 short tons) of oil, 30 tonnes
(30 long tons; 33 short tons) of fuel and other toxic chemicals on
Brisbane's suburban beaches. Premier
Anna Bligh described the spill as
the "worst environmental disaster
Queensland has ever seen".
On 2 November 2012 the
Queensland Government announced that in
conjunction with the Gold Coast City Council it would call expressions
of interest to develop an international cruise ship terminal and
associated development for the Southport Broadwater at the southern
end of Moreton Bay. On 13 February 2014 the Government announced
that the ASF Consortium's proposal "has demonstrated a cruise ship
terminal is a possibility that could be further developed, should the
Council and the proponent choose to progress it". This project is
opposed by the Gold Coast and Hinterland Environment Council.
On 31 May 2014 an approved development scheme was released for the
Toondah Harbour Priority Development Area in Cleveland which would
allow development of a large marina up to 400 berths in southern
Moreton Bay between Toondah Harbour, G.J. Walter Park and Cassim
Queensland Government released at the same time a
lengthy report on the 583 submissions received in response to a draft
scheme released for consultation in January 2014. The draft
Toondah scheme was opposed by marine planning experts and various
environmentally concerned community groups including the Bay
Wilderness Society. On 4 March 2014 a petition with 1,211
signatures calling for the Government's plans to be withdrawn was
tabled in the
Federal government protection
In 1993 large areas of
Moreton Bay with a total area exceeding 113,000
hectares (280,000 acres) were recognised as wetlands of international
significance under the Ramsar
Wetland Convention 1971. Listing as a
Ramsar site is justified on many grounds including:
Moreton Bay supports large numbers of the nationally threatened green
turtle, hawksbill turtle and loggerhead turtle.
The site is ranked among the top ten habitats in
Queensland for the
internationally vulnerable dugong and is a foraging and breeding
ground for the dugong.
Moreton Bay Ramsar site supports 55 species of algae associated
with mangroves, seven species of mangrove and seven species of
At least 43 species of shorebirds use intertidal habitats in the bay,
including 30 migratory species listed by international migratory bird
Moreton Bay Ramsar site supports more than 50,000 wintering and
staging shorebirds during the non-breeding season.
Moreton Bay Ramsar site regularly supports more than 1% of the
population the wintering eastern curlews and the grey-tailed
Many of the migratory shorebirds which use the bay as part of the East
Asian–Australasian Flyway are protected in accordance with three
Japan–Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (JAMBA)
China–Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (CAMBA)
Republic of Korea–Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (ROKAMBA)
Actions that have a significant impact on a Ramsar listed site or on
species which are the subject of international bird migratory
agreements are "matters of national environmental significance" which
are protected by the Federal Government in accordance with provisions
of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act
Queensland government protection
Moreton Island is protected as
Moreton Island National Park. The bay
St Helena Island National Park
St Helena Island National Park and the Moreton Bay
Marine Park with areas designated under the Marine Park Zoning Plan.
The Marine Park was declared in 1993 and covers 3,400 square
kilometres. Parts of the bay are also protected under the Southern
Moreton Bay Islands National Park.
The bay's marine park zoning plan was renewed in 2008. Despite angst
from both commercial and recreational fishers, draft Queensland
Government plans indicate further fishing restrictions aiming to
protect more than 15% of important marine and coastal
environments. Artificial reefs could be placed in
Moreton Bay to
ease the concerns of fishermen who fear they are being forced out. The
Queensland Government will spend A$1 million on research,
planning and construction of a new concrete reef in the bay.
To make up for the fishing areas lost to the 2009 expansion of the
Moreton Bay Marine Park, the
Queensland Government agreed to create a
total of six artificial reefs for anglers. The reefs are constructed
from specially designed balls of concrete which will provide habitat
for fish species. According to former Sustainability Minister
Andrew McNamara the bay produces a commercial catch valued at
$25 million and that $4 million worth of this figure has
become off-limits with the rezoning.
In March 2012 the
Queensland Government signalled its intention to
allow recreational anglers back into marine park green zones in parts
of Moreton Bay. Mark Robinson, the Government's fishing spokesman, was
quoted as saying: "Any changes we make would be evidence-based,".
On 31 January 2014 the
Queensland Government announced a proposed
change to marine park zoning that would relax fishing restrictions at
Scotts Point on the Redcliffe Peninsula. This policy change was
criticised by the Australian Marine Conservation Society whose
spokesperson said: "We question why Premier Newman is going against
the science and the rigorously surveyed opinions of local recreational
fishers to adopt a proposal that was being pushed by disgraced former
Scott Driscoll whilst he was still the member for Redcliffe. There
was no scientific process behind this decision".
In May 2014 the
Queensland Government announced that MRAG Asia Pacific
had been engaged to review fishing management in Queensland. MRAG
has stated that while the green zones were not formally part of the
review scope, it is likely that they would be discussed in the review
The economic value of recreational fishing in
Moreton Bay has been
estimated at approximately $20 million per year.
The bay is popular with recreational anglers. The
Moreton Bay Classic
fishing competition is held annually from the Manly foreshore.
There are many sailing events held on
Moreton Bay including:
Yacht and dinghy racing organised by the Royal
Squadron at Manly.
Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race, first staged in 1949, which
starts from near the Shorncliff Pier every year on Good Friday.
The Interclub Bay Cruise held each year in the first week of the
Queensland September school holidays.
The bay is home to many other watersports and activities including
kayaking, jet-skiing, windsurfing and water-skiing. Diving and
snorkelling are popular around
Tangalooma on Moreton Island.
Moreton Bay Pile Light
Moreton Bay (song)
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Moreton Bay.
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