Ramsar COP7 DOC. 13.3

21/03/1999

COP7's logo"People and Wetlands: The Vital Link"
7th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties
to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971),
San José, Costa Rica, 10-18 May 1999

 Ramsar COP7 DOC. 13.3

Agenda item XI: Issues arising from Resolutions and Recommendations of previous meetings of the Conference of the Parties

Issue 3:
Review of the official descriptions, conservation status, and management plans for Ramsar sites, including the situation of particular sites in the territory of specific Contracting Parties

Contents

Introduction

Official descriptions and maps of designated Ramsar sites

Management planning at Ramsar sites

Preparation of Management Plans by Contracting Parties

Review of the Management Planning Guidelines by the Scientific and Technical Review Panel

The Montreux Record and Management Guidance Procedures

Status of the Record of Ramsar sites where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur (the Montreux Record)

Actions taken pursuant to Recommendation 6.17: Ramsar sites in the territories of specific Contracting Parties

Responses to question 5.3 of the National Report format which asked Contracting Parties to identify those sites where "there has been a change in the ecological character (either positive or negative) at any of your Ramsar sites or is this likely to occur in the near future?"

Annex 1. Sites for which Ramsar Information Sheets have yet to be provided

Annex 2. Sites for which suitable maps have yet to be provided

Annex 3. Sites for which Ramsar Information Sheets in one of the official working languages of the Convention have yet to be provided

Annex 4. Sites for which updated Ramsar Information Sheets have yet to be provided

Annex 5. Report of the review of the Management Planning Guidelines by the Scientific and Technical Review Panel

Annex 6. Table summarising the current status of the Montreux Record

Annex 7. Advice regarding Management Guidance Procedures and the current status of Montreux Record sites

Annex 8. Actions taken pursuant to Recommendation 6.17: Ramsar sites in the territories of specific Contracting Parties

Annex 9. References and summary information for instances where Contracting Parties advised that there "has been change in the ecological character at any Ramsar site or . . . this is likely to occur in the near future": Question 5.2 of the National Report format.

Note - at the time of finalising this document (10 March 1999), the following Contracting Parties had yet to submit National Reports and therefore could not be considered in the preparation of Sections 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Belize (2 sites), Croatia (4 sites), El Salvador (1 site)*, Gabon (3 sites), Guinea-Bissau (1 site), Luxembourg (1 site)* , Madagascar (2 sites)* and Mauritania (2 sites).

* these are new Contracting Parties and were not expected to submit National Reports


Introduction

1. At the 6th Conference of the Contracting Parties, a number of Resolutions and Recommendations were adopted relating to the official descriptions and management of Ramsar Listed sites. These were:

  • Resolution VI.1 on Working definitions for ecological character, guidelines for describing and maintaining the ecological character of listed sites, and guidelines for operation of the Montreux Record;
  • Resolution VI.13 on Submission of information on sites designated for the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance;
  • Recommendation 6.13 on Guidelines on management planning for Ramsar sites and other wetlands;
  • Recommendations 6.17 and 6.17.1-5 on Ramsar sites in the territories of specific Contracting Parties.

2. Further, COP6 adopted a Strategic Plan for the Convention in which the fifth General Objective is devoted to the description and management of Wetlands of International Importance. More specifically within General Objective 5:

  • Operational Objective 5.1 considers the maintenance of ecological character at Ramsar sites including the working definition of ecological character adopted in Resolution VI.1, the Montreux Record of sites where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur, and the application of the Management Guidance Procedure;
  • Operational Objective 5.2 considers management planning at Ramsar sites;
  • Operational Objective 5.3 insists that Contracting Parties should provide up-to-date and complete Ramsar Information Sheets and maps to describe designated sites.

3. Within this review the actions taken relating to a number of the above since COP6 are described. Based on these findings, a draft COP7 decision, Ramsar COP DOC. 15.12, has been prepared as provided. Note that the follow-up actions taken in response to Resolution VI.1 on the working definitions of ecological character and the change in ecological character have been undertaken by the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) and are considered in a separate document (Ramsar COP7 DOC. 15.10), which will be presented to Technical Session IV at COP7.

Official descriptions and maps of designated Ramsar sites

4. By Notification 5/1997, dated 9 July 1997, the Ramsar Bureau reminded Contracting Parties that through Resolution VI.13 of COP6 they were asked to submit by 31 December 1997 a map and completed Ramsar Information Sheet (RIS) relating to any listed site for which these had not been submitted previously. In the same Notification Contracting Parties were requested, also in accordance with Resolution VI.13, to review their site descriptions and provide updated site descriptions using the new RIS, for those sites designated prior to 31 December 1990. The deadline for the submission of such updates was 30 June 1998.

5. In a memorandum to all Contracting Parties in June 1998 the matters referred to in these notifications were again brought to the attention of all Administrative Authorities. At the time of finalising this document (10 March 1999), the response to these requests is as indicated in paragraphs 6, 7 and 8 below.

Sites for which Ramsar Information Sheets and maps have yet to be provided

6. At the time of COP6 there were 132 sites in 22 Contracting Parties for which adequate descriptions had not been submitted and 51 sites in 13 Contracting Parties for which a suitable map had not been provided. As of 10 March 1999 there remain 55 sites in 11 Contracting Parties where site descriptions using the approved Ramsar Information Sheet have not been provided and 10 sites in six Contracting Parties where a suitable map is yet to be forthcoming. The details of these are given in Annexes 1 and 2. Note that excluded from both categories referred to here are the former states of the USSR (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan) which each have one site for which neither RIS or map have been provided. At this time, these are not considered Contracting Parties of the Convention as they have yet to submit instruments of succession.

Sites for which Ramsar Information Sheets in one of the official working languages of the Convention have yet to be provided

7. In addition to the above sites for which no information has been provided, there also remain a number of sites where the official description has not been provided in one of the working languages of the Convention. At the time of COP6 this applied to 71 sites in four Contracting Parties. As of 10 March 1999 this remains the case for 66 sites in three Contracting Parties. Annex 3 provides details of the these Contracting Parties and sites.

Sites for which updated Ramsar Information Sheets have yet to be provided

8. Of the 512 sites designated prior to 31 December 1990, revised information conforming with the new Ramsar Information Sheet format was required from 31 Contracting Parties for a total of 172 sites. As of 10 March 1999 this information had been provided by 19 Contracting Parties for 98 sites. Annex 4 provides the details of where revised information remains outstanding from 12 Contracting Parties for a total of 74 sites.

9. Recommendation

i) That those Contracting Parties referred to in Annexes 1, 2, 3 and 4 of this document be urged to submit, as a matter of urgent priority, adequate site descriptions or maps as appropriate.

Management planning at Ramsar sites

Preparation of Management Plans by Contracting Parties

10. Action 5.2.3 of the Strategic Plan of the Convention states that "by the 8th COP (2002), management plans or other mechanisms" should be "in preparation, or in place, for at least half of the Ramsar sites in each Contracting Party."

11. In the National Reports submitted for COP7, Contracting Parties were asked to indicate their progress with pursuing this goal. As of 10 March 1999, the status of progress with the preparation and implementation of management plans for Ramsar sites on a region by region basis was as shown below. The information provided up to this date indicates that management plans are in place for 168 sites (18%) and plans are being prepared or revised for a further 248 sites (26%). Further, Contracting Parties have advised that for 288 sites (30%) management plans are being implemented.

12. While it may seem an error to suggest that more plans are being implemented than are apparently fully prepared, this reflects, in part, the fact that some plans are being revised and others are being implemented while still undergoing preparation. Also, there are many instances where Ramsar sites fall within larger management areas, or are only partially covered by management plans for adjoining areas. These situations have been included in the statistics for "Plans being implemented" even though the circumstances vary greatly. The same explanation applies for the apparent anomaly shown for "Plans include monitoring" where Contracting Parties have advised that for 358 sites (38%) some form of monitoring regime is in place. It should not be assumed, however, that this suggests 358 sites have a comprehensive monitoring framework as encouraged by the Convention (Article 3.2 and Resolution VI.1). In many cases Contracting Parties have indicated a positive reply to this question when only one or a few suitable parameters are being monitored.

13. Closer examination of the table below indicates some apparent regional differences in the progress with management planning. Most notably, in terms of site management "Plans being prepared (or updated)" there is much activity in Eastern Europe, the Neotropics, North America and Oceania, but noticeably less in Africa, Asia and Western Europe. In terms of "Plans fully prepared" the highest percentages are found in Oceania, North America and the Neotropics, followed by Africa. Note that in this case also many Contracting Parties have included situations where a Ramsar site is partially covered by an existing management plan for an adjoining area, or forms part of a larger management area. Here again, the lowest incidence of fully prepared site plans is found in Western Europe and Asia, both at just 6% of sites. However, when the figures for "Plans being implemented" are examined, a different trend is obvious with Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa lagging behind the other regions.

14. Perhaps the most pleasing finding from this survey are the figures for "Plans include monitoring", which show this being under way at levels from 22% (North America) up to 52% (Neotropics) of sites in the various regions. This is an encouraging sign that Contracting Parties are taking seriously their obligations under Article 3.2 to "arrange to be informed at the earliest opportunity if the ecological character of any wetland in its territory and included in the List has changed, is changing or is likely to change." However, as indicated in paragraph 11 above, it should not be assumed from these figures that comprehensive monitoring frameworks are in place for 358 Ramsar sites, as in many cases Contracting Parties have advised that this monitoring is limited or restricted to only one or a few suitable parameters.

15. For more detailed information on management planning at Ramsar sites presented country by country, refer to the respective Regional Overviews, Ramsar COP7 DOCS. 6-12.

Status of management plans for Ramsar sites (Actions 5.1.2, 5.2.3)

Region Number of Ramsar sites Plans being prepared (or updated)

Plans fully prepared

Plans being implemented Plans include monitoring
Africa

76 (68)

15 (22%)

24 (35%)

16 (23%)

25 (37%)

Asia

70 (70)

10 (14%)

4 (6%)

15 (21%)

22 (31%)

Eastern Europe

145 (141)*

50 (35%)

13 (9%)

20 (14%)

50 (35%)

Neotropics

65 (62)

28 (45%)

28 (45%)

28 (45%)

32 (52%)

North America

59 (59)

20 (34%)

35 (59%)

35 (59%)

13 (22%)

Oceania

56 (56)

30 (54%)

35 (62%)

17 (30%)

18 (32%)

Western Europe

495 (494) (1)

95 (19%)

29 (6%)

157 (32%)

198 (40%)

Totals

966 (950)

248 (26%)

168 (18%)

288 (30%)

358 (38%)

In the Number of Ramsar sites column, ( ) indicates the number of sites considered here, allowing for those Contracting Parties which had not submitted National Reports as of 10 March 1999 - namely Belize (2 sites), Croatia (4 sites), El Salvador (1 site), Gabon (3 sites), Guinea-Bissau (1site), Luxembourg (1 site) , Madagascar (2 sites) and Mauritania (2 sites)

For Asia - four sites in the former USSR have not been included here.

* includes 20 sites in the Asian part of the Russian Federation

(1) includes sites in Greenland (11), and in the dependent territories of three Contracting Parties which are located in other regions

16. Overall, this review of management planning shows that encouraging progress has been made toward achieving the target set by Action 5.2.3 of the Strategic Plan. If it is assumed that all of the plans being prepared and revised at present are finalised within the not too distant future, then this will amount to a total of 416 or 44% of sites for which some form of management plan will be in place. It has to be hoped that the pattern of the present, where there are claimed to be more management plans being implemented than have been finalised, continues into the future. Based on this survey it would seem there may be grounds for COP7 to consider revising the target set in Action 5.2.3 of the Strategic Plan to a higher level as a way to further encourage activities in this very important area of the Convention’s work. It is of concern that the extent of management planning in some regions is noticeably less than in others. For these regions it should be a high priority in the next triennium to increase the level of management planning.

17. Recommendations

i.) That COP7 consider reviewing the target for management planning at Ramsar sites, as set by Action 5.2.3 of the Strategic Plan, and setting a more ambitious target.

ii) That Contracting Parties be urged to continue their efforts to prepare and implement management plans for Ramsar sites, and further encouraged to ensure that these include appropriate monitoring regimes.

Review of the Management Planning Guidelines

18. The review of the Convention’s Guidelines on Management Planning for Ramsar Sites and Other Wetlands (Resolution 5.7) was undertaken by the Scientific and Technical Review Panel in response to Recommendation 6.13 from COP6. Annex 5 provides a full description of the project and its findings based on two questionnaires sent to all Contracting Parties and other interested organisations in 1997 and 1998.

19. Recommendations

i) Refer to the final section of Annex 5, which provides the overall conclusions and recommendations of this project.

The Montreux Record and Management Guidance Procedures

Status of the Record of Ramsar sites where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur (the Montreux Record)

20. A summary of the current status of the Montreux Record is provided in Annex 6. This shows that since its inception in 1990, a total of 69 sites from 32 Contracting Parties have been entered into the Record. Note that excluded from this figure are the single sites in three former states of the USSR: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. These states have yet to become Contracting Parties of the Convention. Of these 69 sites, 11 have been removed from the Montreux Record by the Contracting Parties, leaving, as at the date this document was finalised (10 March 1999), 58 sites. Six sites have been removed from the Montreux Record since COP6; these being sites in Algeria, Bolivia, Germany, Mexico, South Africa and Venezuela.

21. Of the 58 Montreux Record sites as at 10 March 1999, official Management Guidance Procedures (with a formal report submitted by the Bureau to the Administrative Authority) have been completed for 39 sites, and for four of these sites, two MGPs have been done (Islamic Republic of Iran for 2 sites, Tunisia and Uruguay 1 site each). Since COP6 MGPs have been completed for 9 sites (1 in Costa Rica, 1 in Denmark, 1 in Guatemala, 3 in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and 3 in Italy). In addition the Bureau has also visited and provided advice on a number of other sites as indicated in Annex 6. More detailed information on each Montreux Record site is given in Annex 7. Those Contracting Parties with Montreux Record sites were asked to include in their National Reports up-to-date advice on the situation at each. This advice, where provided, has been included in Annex 7.

22. Reference to Annex 7 reveals that a number of Contracting Parties, as stated in their National Reports for COP7, are giving consideration to the removal of sites from the Montreux Record. This is in recognition of positive actions which have been taken, in response to either the recommendations of Management Guidance Procedures, less formal site visits by Bureau personnel, or internal reviews. The Convention should welcome such attention to site management problems by these Contracting Parties and urge them to complete and submit as soon as possible the questionnaire designed for this purpose (Resolution VI.1). At the same time, the advice by some Contracting Parties is that while actions are under way to address management problems, it is premature to consider the removal of these sites from the Montreux Record. The actions of these Contracting Parties should also be acknowledged, and these countries are urged to continue to seeks ways to re-establish the ecological character of these sites. It is of concern that a number of Contracting Parties failed to provide an update on the status of their Montreux Record site(s) through the National Report process. It is hoped that they will be able to do so at the time of COP7.

Promoting application of the Montreux Record as a Convention tool

23. It is evident that there has been a marked slowing down in the entry of sites into the Montreux Record over the past four years; only three sites having been added after 1994, with all others added between 1990 and 1994. It is the view of the Standing Committee and Ramsar Bureau that this reflects the continuing poor image of the Montreux Record as a so-called red or black list of sites. At the time it was established by Recommendations 4.8 and 5.3, the Montreux Record was recognised as a suitable response to the obligations accepted by Contracting Parties through Articles 2.1, 3.1 and 3.2 of the Convention. It was also seen as giving Contracting Parties the option to request expert assistance in addressing management problems through a Management Guidance Procedure. In fact, there have been several "success" stories under the Montreux Record, and there seems to be a need to promote these more widely to assist in creating a more positive perception of this important Ramsar Convention tool.

Renaming the Management Guidance Procedure (MGP)

24. While recognising that the MGP was formerly known as the Monitoring Procedure, the Ramsar Bureau brought to the attention of the 21st meeting of the Standing Committee its view that the name Management Guidance Procedure still does not convey to those unfamiliar with Ramsar jargon what such an action under the Convention is truly about. The phrase "Management Guidance Procedure" is also difficult to express in French and Spanish. The Standing Committee agreed with the view of the Bureau on this matter and is recommending that the Management Guidance Procedure be renamed (for the final time) to Ramsar Advisory Mission.

25. Recommendations

i) That COP7 acknowledge the efforts of Algeria, Bolivia, Germany, Mexico, South Africa and Venezuela, which have undertaken actions resulting in the removal of six sites from the Montreux Record since COP6;

ii) Further, that those Contracting Parties with sites on the Montreux Record, and especially those for which a Management Guidance Procedures has been conducted, be urged to increase their efforts to address the management problems of these sites with a view to the early removal of these sites from the Record;

iii) Also, that those Contracting Parties with Montreux Record sites, and which have failed to provide an update on the current status of these sites as part of their National Reports or other appropriate means, be requested to do so as soon as possible;

iv) That the Ramsar Bureau be requested to promote the "success stories" of the Montreux Record as a way to demonstrate to all Contracting Parties the benefits which accrue from placing sites in the Record; and,

v) That the Management Guidance Procedure be renamed the Ramsar Advisory Mission.

Actions taken pursuant to Recommendation 6.17: Ramsar sites in the territories of specific Contracting Parties

26. In the National Report format for COP7 approved by the Standing Committee, question 5.5 asked that those Contracting Parties specifically referred to in Recommendation 6.17 and Recommendations 6.17.1-5 should provide advice on their actions to address the issues and concerns raised therein. These responses are presented in Annex 8.

27. Recommendations 6.17 and 6.17.1-5 drew attention to site management issues in a large number of countries, 11 of these being related to Montreux Record sites. The information relating to these latter sites is given in Annexes 6 and 7. For the remaining sites, most of the relevant Contracting Parties provided some information on the issues of concern addressed in Recommendations 6.17 and 6.17.1-5. In order of consideration in the Recommendations, and in Annex 8, this relates to issues in the Netherlands, Poland, Russian Federation, Vietnam, Hungary, Chile, South Africa, Bolivia, Peru, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Bangladesh, France, Germany and Australia. Regrettably, not all of these Contracting Parties provided a response to the issues raised in Recommendation 6.17 as indicated in Annex 8.

28. Recommendations

i) That those Contracting Parties referred to in Recommendations 6.17 and 6.17.1-5 and which did not provide, as part of their National Reports, comprehensive updates on the matters raised in these Recommendations, be urged to do so as soon as possible.

Responses to question 5.3 of the National Report format which asked Contracting Parties to identify those sites where "There has been a change in the ecological character (either positive or negative) at any of your Ramsar sites or is this likely to occur in the near future?"

29. In the National Report format for COP7 approved by the Standing Committee, question 5.3 asked Contracting Parties to identify those sites where "there has been a change in the ecological character (either positive or negative) at any of your Ramsar sites or is this likely to occur in the near future?"

30. From those National Reports submitted at the time of finalising this document (10 March 1999), 35 Contracting Parties had responded to this question by indicating that they had one or more Ramsar sites within their jurisdictions where a change in ecological character had occurred or was likely to occur in the near future. As detailed in Annex 9, these Contracting Parties were Albania, Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Comoros, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Germany, Guinea, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Lithuania, Malta, Mexico, Mongolia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Peru, Sri Lanka, The Gambia, Togo, United Kingdom, Venezuela and Yugoslavia. Thirty-three of these Contracting Parties identified a total of 110 sites and two (Mexico and Pakistan) referred to all or most of their sites. A summary of this advice is provided in Annex 9; however, in order to gain a full understanding of the threats and management issues concerned, reference to the full National Reports posted on the Ramsar Web site is urged in all cases.

31. A number of the Contracting Parties which provided advice on their so-called "sites of concern" provided extensive and detailed information on the issues and approaches being taken to rectify problems. Notable among these are Australia, Germany, Ireland, Japan and the United Kingdom, and these Contracting Parties deserve commendation for responding so forthrightly to this question in their National Reports. Reference to Annex 9 will also indicate that a large number of Contracting Parties did not give any indication of the actions they are taking to deal with site management problems and threats. While this was not requested by question 5.3 of the National Report format, these Contracting Parties are urged to provide this advice to the Bureau in accordance with Article 3.2 of the Convention.

32. Recommendations

i) That the following Contracting Parties be commended by COP7 for the detailed information they provided relating to management problems, and the responses to these, for a number of their Ramsar sites: Australia, Germany, Ireland, Japan and the United Kingdom;

ii) That those Contracting Parties which have advised through their National Reports for COP7 that changes in ecological character have occurred or are imminent at a Ramsar site (Question 5.3) be urged to consider entering these sites on the Montreux Record as a matter of priority.


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