The 6th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties


Technical Session E:
Criteria for Identifying Wetlands of International Importance

Chair: Mr Abdoulaye N'Daiye (Senegal)
Vice Chair: Mr Mihaly Vegh (Hungary)
Secretariat: Dr Montserrat Carbonell (Ramsar Bureau)

Keynote Presentations

"The Importance of Fishes and Fisheries in Wetlands: the need for an additional Ramsar criterion for the designation of sites of international importance based on their fish and fisheries," Dr Michael Bruton, Two Oceans Aquarium, South Africa

"The Need for Improving Coverage of Plants and Invertebrates in the Existing Ramsar Criteria and Guidelines," Dr Peter Bacon, University of the West Indies, Trinidad & Tobago

"Estimating International Waterbird Populations: the Use of Criterion 3(c)," Dr David Stroud, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, UK

    The Chair
    indicated that the business and expected output of Technical Session E concerned three Draft Resolutions, namely Resolutions VI.2, VI.3, and VI.4.

    The Vice Chair
    as a member of the Scientific and Technical Review Panel, gave the background to the work done together with other experts, as recommended in Recommendation 5.9 of the Kushiro Meeting of the COP, in relation to the proposed new criteria for fish and fisheries. He also indicated that the STRP had considered the need for reviewing the existing criteria but not to change them.

    Dr Bruton
    detailed six characteristics which demonstrated the importance of fishes in wetlands (biodiversity and biodisparity, endemicity, threatened status, productivity and yield, ecological roles, and economic value); he outlined the proposed 4th Criterion and defined its terms. He referred to changes to the criteria proposed by Australia and WWF. He concluded that the 4th Criterion would greatly enhance the relevance of the Convention in the developing world, and would stimulate fish research and conservation, to the benefit of many, but that the guidelines should be used holistically, based on the catchment management approach adopted by the Convention. Two countries had tested the proposed criteria with the result that new sites had been identified, all of them coastal; the criteria also strengthened the international importance of the already listed sites.

    Dr Bacon
    focused his paper on plants and invertebrates but was not prepared to propose new criteria for these groups. Greater consideration should be paid to freshwater and marine plants to identify important wetlands. These can be accommodated under Criterion 1 but their botanical features and in some cases their uniqueness needs to be highlighted. Inclusion of plant type in identification criteria permits wetland monitoring by remote sensing, providing a more sensitive method for gauging wetland health and status. Plants may also serve as indicators of ambient environmental conditions, particularly as these relate to hydrology. The presence and distribution patterns of plants could be used to relate Ramsar criteria more directly to wetland functional values. Wetland invertebrates have important ecological roles (foods webs, decomposition) and economic values. Their presence and roles can largely be inferred by study of wetland vegetation distribution. Existing Criteria 1 and 2, and proposed Criterion 4, provide adequate coverage for wetland invertebrate values.

    Dr Stroud
    recommended that international waterfowl population estimates be updated every three years, but that 1% thresholds should be revised every nine years, enabling them to act as a benchmark against which the importance of individual sites can be measured.

    New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland
    welcomed fish as a criterion but expressed concern about the inclusion of fisheries in proposed Criterion 4(c). The proposed formulation would lower the threshold for listing sites and lead to too many new designations. The term "fish stocks" was preferred.

    wished the fish definitions to include other families, such as Thryamids and Cyramids.

    The UK
    expressed a number of anxieties about further measures which could lead to conflict or overlap with existing national and/or regional regulations. Consideration of fish and fisheries should be considered under the terms of Criterion 2, and guidelines in relation to fish and fisheries should be developed at regional or national levels.

    suggesting small amendments to Draft Resolution VI.2 came from Italy, Trinidad & Tobago, the Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales, and the Inland Rivers Network of Australia, but were generally supportive. Sri Lanka supported the incorporation of fish, plant and hydrological functions, and the review of existing criteria to facilitate identification of internationally important wetlands of types currently under-represented. IUCN stressed the need for hydrological functions to be considered and was preparing a recommendation. Chile and Ghana thought that the inclusion of fish criteria was advantageous but the lack of financial resources to obtain needed information was a concern.

    had successfully tested the guidelines and identified important sites which the other criteria had not. The use of fish criteria had helped to incorporate whole catchments, just as the bird criteria help to bridge wetlands in different continents through flyway networks.

    Guinea Bissau and Israel
    supported Draft Resolution VI.2 and indicated that it would help in identifying new sites and in acceding to the Convention respectively.

    supported Draft Resolution VI.3 because of concern at the growing number of criteria, and suggested giving consideration to bringing them together.

    stated that passerines ecologically dependent on wetlands should be taken into account when identifying, nominating or reporting on wetlands of international importance.

    felt that, with the adoption of fish and fisheries criteria, the time had come to change the name of the Convention. The Slovak Republic supported this view.

    Dr Bruton
    answered the queries addressed to him through the interventions and stated that the guidelines can continue to be modified so as to make them applicable both regionally and globally. He agreed with the use of the word "stocks" in place of "fisheries" in Criterion 4(c).

    Dr Bacon
    in relation to his presentation, agreed with New Zealand's view that it was sensible to use plants as indicators for designating sites, especially concerning ephemeral wetlands. He shared the Slovak Republic's concern over the classification of wetland types and suggested that an ecosystem approach is required in the criteria.

    The Chair
    asked for written statements to be passed to the redrafting committee, which would look at Draft Resolutions VI.2 and VI.3. This would comprise Norway, New Zealand, the UK, Trinidad & Tobago, Senegal, South Africa, Dr Bruton, Dr Bacon, and Bureau staff. [Subsequently, Iceland replaced Norway.]

Rapporteur: Tim Davis

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
Map: click here

Ramsar Forum: subscribe