National Report of Estonia for COP7

National Report prepared for the 7th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)

 Implementation of the Ramsar Convention in general, and of the Ramsar Strategic Plan 1997-2002 in particular, during the period since the National Report was prepared in 1995 for Ramsar COP6

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Contracting Party Estonia
Designated Ramsar Administrative Authority .
Full name of the institution Estonian Ministry of Environment
Name and title of the head of the institution Mr. Villu Reiljan, Minister of Environment
Mailing address for the head of the institution Toompuiestee 24, EE0100 Tallinn, Estonia
Telephone + 372 6262 802
Fax +372 6262 801
E-mail .
Name and title (if different) of the designated contact officer for Ramsar Convention matters Mr. Tiit Randla, Head of the Nature Conservation Division of the Nature Conservation and Natural Resources Department
Mailing address (if different) for the designated contact officer Same
Telephone +372 6262 870
Fax +372 6262 801

Ramsar Strategic Plan - General Objective 1
To progress towards universal membership of the Convention.

1.1 Describe any actions your government has taken (such as hosting regional or subregional meetings/consultations, working cooperatively with neighbouring countries on transfrontier wetland sites) to encourage others to join the Convention.

Ramsar Strategic Plan - General Objective 2
To achieve the wise use of wetlands by implementing and further developing the Ramsar Wise Use Guidelines.

2.1 Has a National Wetland Policy/Strategy/Action Plan been developed, or is one being developed or planned for the near future? If so:

a. What are/will be its main features?

b. Was it, or is it, intended that the Policy/Strategy/Action Plan be adopted by the whole of Government, the Minister responsible for Ramsar matters or through some other process. Please describe.

c. How does it relate/will it relate to other national environmental/ conservation planning initiatives (e.g., National Environmental Action Plans, National Biodiversity Action Plans, National Conservation Strategies)?

National Wetland Policy is adopted by governmental degree since 4 March 1997. Wetland issues are level included also in some other relevant policy documents like National Environmental Action Plan. There is also the National Programme on the Implementation of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (1997) in governmental level. The main goal of this programme is preparing and complaining management plans for all internationally important wetlands by 2002. Yet the main policy principles are elaborated and serve as guidelines for the work of Ministry of Environment. These can be summarized as follows:

A. Concerning mires:

  • to preserve the typical mire sites for each region of Estonia;
  • to protect mires deserving it as habitats of rare plants and animals;
  • to preserve mires, which are important for water protection;
  • to preserve mires with unique peat deposits;
  • to follow sustainability principles in the peat extraction;

B. Concerning lakes:

  • preparing applies sensible planning processes for the catchment areas of most valuable and vulnerable lakes in order to avoid their further damage by eutrophication;
  • cost-effective methods for lake restoration in Estonia have to be tested and some pilot projects implemented.

C. Concerning seminatural wetlands

  • to preserve seminatural wetlands (coastal and alluvial meadows) economically viable extent;
  • to prepare the management plans for all protected seminatural wetlands;
  • to study and test further possibilities of wise use of seminatural wetlands.

National Wetland Strategy is under preparation (commissioned by the World bank) and has to be published in September 1998. It includes updated wetland inventory results with an emphasis on wetland types (fens and transition bogs) which were not sufficiently studied so far, protection proposals and land-use strategy for wetlands.

It is the intention of the Ministry of Environment to start also the preparation of National Wetland Action Plan, which should include overviews on current protection instruments and protected areas and further needs, sector-by-sector assessment of economic developments affecting wetlands and site-by-site Action Plans (need for management plans, time-tables for implementation and an investment matrix). Collateral funds are currently sought for this (an application has been made to OMPO, Estonia is ready to fund part of the project).

National Environmental Action Plan and National Biodiversity Action Plan have been prepared and all policy documents under preparation should be coordinated with these.

2.2 If a policy is in place, how much progress has been made in its implementation, and what are the major difficulties being encountered in doing so?

2.3 If a Policy/Strategy/Action Plan is in place, is the responsibility for implementing it with :

a. a single Government Ministry,
b. a committee drawn from several Ministries, or
c. a cross-sectoral committee?

2.4 For countries with Federal systems of Government, are there Wetland Policies/Strategies/Plans in place, being developed or planned for the provincial/state or regional levels of Government? Yes/No   If yes, please give details.

2.5 Has a review of legislation and practices which impact on wetlands been carried out, and if so, has this resulted in any changes which assist with implementation of the Ramsar Convention? Please describe these.

Since Estonian legislation has developed quickly after regaining independence in 1991, reviews on legislative needs are being made frequently. The coherence of Estonian laws with international conventions is assessed constantly. This has resulted, e.g., in adoption of Amendments of Act on Protected Natural Objects by which the preparation and implementation of management plans have become a legal requirement. One of the quite recent steps of Estonian government has been adoption of a decree about critical value of the peat deposit, i.e., establishing the sustainable level of peat extraction.

2.6 Describe the efforts made in your country to have wetlands considered in integrated land/water and coastal zone planning and management processes at the following levels:

a. national
b. provincial
c. local

a. For Matsalu wetland the management plan was prepared and then supplemented with the management guidelines for the whole area, which will be used in the planning of land-use in the counties within the catchment area.

b. The management plan for Käina bay will be integrated to the larger land/coastal zone plan in Hiiumaa island and Väinameri regions.

2.7 Have there been any publications produced, or practices documented, which could assist other countries to promote and improve the application of the Ramsar Wise Use of Wetlands Guidelines? Yes/No   If Yes, please provide details and copies.


2.8 Noting COP6 Recommendation 6.14 relating to toxic chemicals and pollution, please advise of the actions taken since then "to remedy and to prevent pollution impacts affecting Ramsar sites and other wetlands" (Operative paragraph 9).

Basically the in remedy and prevention of pollution strong priority is given to the Helsinki Convention. Since under the HELCOM Programme Implementation Task Force a Working Group on Management of Coastal Lagoons and Wetlands has been active for five years, a lot has been done for specific coastal wetlands and reducing pollution in general (construction of sewage treatment plants, closing and liquidating the point-sources of pollution and reducing pollution from non-point sources). Most of these actions match well the spirit of COP6 Recommendation 6.14.

2.9 Describe what steps have been taken to incorporate wetland economic valuation techniques into natural resource planning and assessment actions.

Wetland economic valuation techniques in strict sense are not very well developed as yet. Valuation methods worked out in the western countries are much based on the high price/value of land, In Estonia, where much of the land is abandoned, unused or underdeveloped, the land value is not always clear. Wetland economy has been studied in the sense of the cost of management and the considerations and findings incorporated in the management plans.

2.10 Is Environmental Impact Assessment for actions potentially impacting on wetlands required under legislation in your country? Yes/No


2.11 Is wetland restoration and rehabilitation considered a priority in your country? Yes/No.  If Yes, describe the actions that have been taken to identify wetlands in need of these actions and to mobilise resources for restoration or rehabilitation.

No, because of big number (and territory) of wetlands have still maintained their basic ecological value. Small-scale restoration projects are still carried out, e.g., on smaller lakes and also the restoration of some depleted peat-bogs (Lavassaare and Viru bog) is under way.

2.12 Describe what actions have been taken to "encourage active and informed participation of local communities, including indigenous people, and in particular women, in the conservation and wise use of wetlands." (refer to Actions 2.7.1-4 in the Strategic Plan).

The main problem is to convince farmers to continue the management of seminatural wetlands, in the areas with no management plans adopted as yet. The new protection rules, made for different protected wetlands and management plans try sensibly to incorporate the wise use principles.

2.13 Describe what actions have been taken to "encourage involvement of the private sector in the conservation and wise use of wetlands" (refer to Actions 2.8.1-4 in the Strategic Plan). Has this included a review of fiscal measures (taxation arrangements, etc.) to identify and remove disincentives and introduce incentives for wetlands conservation and wise use? Yes/No   If yes, please provide details.

Yes. Mostly supporting activities of farmers (mowing and grazing) are regarded as an essential part of the implementation of the existing and prepared management plans for the wetlands with seminatural communities (floodplain and coastal meadows). Fiscal incentives (dotations) are agreed to the farmers in the areas where the management plans are accepted and implementation has started (this applies so far to Matsalu, but hopefully in near future the scope will be extended).

Ramsar Strategic Plan - General Objective 3
To raise awareness of wetland values and functions throughout the world and at all levels

3.1 Is there a government-run national programme for Education and Public Awareness in your country which focuses on, or includes, wetlands? Yes/No?   If yes, what are the priority actions under this programme and who are the target groups? (Refer also to question 9.4)

Yes, addressed specifically as a part of Public Awareness Programma of the recently prepared National Environmental Action Plan.

Priority actions under this programma include public awareness projects, updating curricula and adult training.

The target groups are mostly pupils and local authorities, public awareness campaigns are addressed to the wide audience.

3.2 Describe the steps taken to have wetlands issues and Ramsar’s Wise Use principles included as part of the curricula of educational institutions. Has this been at all levels of education (primary, secondary, tertiary and adult)? Please give details.

Wetland conservation issues have lasted a long period since had an important place in the curricula. In 60-ies, when Moscow had a plan to drain most of Estonian peat-bogs a campaign was started by Estonian scientific community to raise the public awareness about the importance of wetlands, especially the peatbogs. The ideology worked out by that time included implicitly also the Wise Use principles, but needs somewhat to be updated and addressed more explicitly. Wetland issues are quite well covered in the curricula of secondary and tertiary levels.

Ramsar Strategic Plan - General Objective 4
To reinforce the capacity of institutions in each Contracting Party to achieve conservation and wise use of wetlands.

4.1 Describe the mechanisms in place, or being introduced, to increase cooperation between the various institutions responsible for actions which can have an impact on the conservation and wise use of wetlands. If one of the mechanisms is a National Ramsar/Wetlands Committee, please describe its composition, functions and modus operandi.

National Ramsar Committee is the basic mechanism promoting cooperation between the various scientific and administrative institutions.

4.2 Of the following, indicate which have been undertaken:

a. a review to identify the training needs of institutions and individuals concerned with the conservation and wise use of wetlands Yes/No? If yes, please indicate the major findings of the review.

Not formally, identifying the training needs has been considered to be a part of day-to-day routine for the Ministry of Environment. With limited budget this is a matter of balancing priority needs with existing and upcoming opportunities.

b. a review to identify training opportunities for these people both within your country and in other countries. Yes/No?

Not formally.

c. the development of training modules or a training programme specifically for wetland managers. If yes, please give details.

Not specifically, but since the management plan for Matsalu wetland is in the phase of implementation, can it be used as a demonstration project for other wetland managers.

d. people from your country have gained wetland-related training either within or outside the country. Yes/No? If yes, please give details.

Yes. Two wetland managers have attended the Lelystadt /Holland/ courses about wetland management. Several workshops have been organized in Estonia in cooperation with WWF and former IWRB and similar courses attended by wetland managers in other countries.

Ramsar Strategic Plan - General Objective 5
To ensure the conservation of all sites included in the List of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar List).

5.1 Of the Ramsar sites in your country, how many have formal management plans:

a. being prepared?   3
b. fully prepared?
c. being implemented?

Please indicate in the attached table of Ramsar sites which sites these are and what category they fall into.

5.2 Of the management plans referred to above, which ones have included a monitoring scheme or programme to allow changes in ecological character to be detected? Please indicate this in the attached table of Ramsar sites also.

Monitoring is a mandatory part of the management plan, only the extent of monitoring may vary significantly - some of the wetlands (Vilsandi, Endla) have stationary monitoring stations with wide scope of monitoring parameters.

5.3 Has there 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? Yes/No. If Yes, please give details.

Yes.  Positive changes include the following:

  • Pollution rates have decreased significantly because of decline in the primary economy sectors and construction of sewage water treatment plants;
  • Active planning and construction of trails and other public access facilities have channeled the visitor load in many wetlands and making its impact more manageable.

Negative changes include mostly:

  • Valuable seminatural habitats are often abandoned by farmers and grow over;
  • Privatization of land has created different problems and sometimes violations against the protection regime. Smaller fens on private lands and not protected, have sometimes seriously damaged with drainage.
  • Forestry is a very quickly developing sector with serious impact to wet forests and wetlands, adjacent to forests (The newly adopted Forest Policy has among its objectives to mitigate this development);
  • Tourism and visitor load are increasing and affect negatively the areas where the visitor facilities are absent.

5.4 In the case of Montreux Record Ramsar sites where the Management Guidance Procedure has been applied, what is the status of the implementation of the MGP report recommendations? What is the expected time-frame for removing the site from the Montreux Record?

5.5 For those countries referred to in COP6 Recommendations 6.17.1-4, "Ramsar sites in the Territories of Specific Contracting Parties", please provide advice on the actions that have been taken in response to the issues raised at that time.

Ramsar Strategic Plan - General Objective 6
To designate for the Ramsar List those wetlands which meet the Convention’s criteria, especially wetland types still under-represented in the List and transfrontier wetlands.

6.1 Has a national inventory of wetlands been prepared for your country? Yes/No.

If no, are there plans for this to be done? Yes/No. Where a national inventory exists please provide details of when it was finalised, where it is kept and what information it contains.


On fifties integral mapping of Estonian plant communities led by prof. L. Laasimer continued the ambitious task undertaken by prof. T. Lippmaa in thirties and resulted in the L.Laasimers monograph published in 1965 (The Plant cover of Estonian SSR ). Along with this, complex ecological studies of some bog systems, were initiated by prof. V. Masing resulted in considerable expertise in Estonian bogs, their ecology and genesis. The most recent monographic study on Estonian mires "Eesti sood (Estonian Mires )" by U. Valk was published in 1988.

Estonian lakes have been studied and inventoried (excluding the lakes less than one ha in size) relatively well by Dr. A.Mäemets; the classification of lakes as well as ecological features of Estonian lakes has been described by the latter and the staff of the limnological station of the Institute of Zoology and Botany. Two monographs have been published.

The project Wetstonia was initiated by Estonian Fund for Nature in 1993 to get an overview about flood plain and coastal meadows. The database of Wetstonia consists more than of 3000 data sheets and a report has been published in 1996. Due to the rapid changes in ecological conditions of seminatural habitats additional inventories are essential.

The knowledge about offshore marine areas is sporadic.

The inventory of fens and transition bogs has recently been completed as a preparatory work for Estonian Wetland Conservation Strategy commissioned by the World Bank.

6.2 Does there exist a list or directory of "important" wetlands for your country or region? Yes/No. If yes, please provide details of when it was finalised, where it is kept, what criteria for "important" were used, and the types of information it contains.


Estonian Ornithological Society has prepared a directory of Important Bird Areas (IBAs).

Most recent inventory reports on flood plain and coastal meadows, fens and transition bogs include the assessment of their conservation value (importance) based on different criteria.

6.3 If it is known, please provide an estimate of the area of wetlands in your country at present and any information on rates of loss or conversion to other activities. If this information is available, please indicate what definition of "wetland" was used.

About 300 000 ha of Estonian mires have been drained and about other 300 000 ha influenced by the drainage, the data is not fully available about the loss of wet meadows.

6.4 Have any actions been taken in response to the COP6 Resolutions and Recommendations that Contracting Parties should give priority to listing Wetlands of International Importance which:

a. meet the criteria for fish habitat (Resolution VI.2),
b. meet the 1% criterion for waterbird populations using data provided by the International Waterfowl Census (Resolution VI.4),
c. are subterranean karst or cave wetland systems (Resolution VI.5),
d. are peatland ecosystems (Recommendation 6.1)
e. are coral reefs and associated systems (Recommendation 6.7)
f. are under-represented wetland types (which apart from d. and e. above include mangroves and sea grass beds) (Strategic Plan Action 6.2.3)


6.5 If your government indicated at COP6 that it would be proceeding to list further specific sites, please advise of the status of this action.

In addition to the ten wetlands listed as a Ramsar-sites Estonian Government shadow-listed with a decree ten additional important wetlands to be Ramsar listed by 2010.

6.6 Please advise which of the sites included in the Ramsar List from your country are transfrontier wetlands (Refer also to 7.1).

Not yet.

6.7 Describe any plans, or actions being taken for further transfrontier sites to be listed (Refer also to 7.1).

Plans exist to expand the area of protected wetlands around Nigula, complement them in cooperation with Latvia with bogs in North-Vidzeme area (Latvia) and thus form a transfrontier site.

Possibilities exist also for forming transfrontier site with Russia (EmajSe Suursoo Mire and Piirissaar Island lies close to the Ramsar site in Russia). Forming a transfrontier site will be possible after signing the border contract between Estonia and Russia.

Ramsar Strategic Plan - General Objective 7
To mobilise international cooperation and financial assistance for wetland conservation and wise use in collaboration with other conventions and agencies, both governmental and non-governmental.

7.1 Briefly describe any bilateral or multilateral activities that have been taken, are under way, or are planned for the management of transfrontier wetlands or their watersheds/catchments (Refer also to 6.6 and 6.7).

Various bilateral contracts have been signed with Russia about the sustainable use of natural resources and environmental protection in Lake Peipsi and its catchment.

7.2 Do you have Ramsar sites that are "twinned" with others, either nationally or internationally? Yes/No. If yes, please give details.

Yes. Nigula Nature Reserve (Estonia) and North-Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve (Latvia) cooperate closely to establish a transfrontier wetland site.

7.3 Where your country is also a signatory of any of the following Conventions, describe what mechanism(s) exist to assist regular dialogue and cooperative actions between the personnel responsible for their implementation and the Ramsar Administrative Authority:

a. Convention on Biological Diversity

Convention on Biological Diversity - well coordinated between each other by responsible officers in the same - Nature Conservation and Natural Resources Department of the Ministry of Environment.

b. Framework Convention on Climate Change

Framework Convention on Climate Change - adequately coordinated by the Policy Department of the Ministry of Environment.

c. Convention to Combat Desertification
d. Convention on Migratory Species
e. World Heritage Convention

World Heritage Convention - coordinated to some extent by responsible officers of different ministries.

7.4 Is your country cooperating as part of any bilateral or multilateral activities directed at the conservation of migratory wetland species? Yes/No. If yes, please provide details.

No, but Estonia intends to join the East-Palearctic and African Flyway Agreement of the Bonn Convention.

7.5 Are there multilateral and/or bilateral donors supporting projects which contribute to implementation of the Ramsar Convention in your country? Yes/No. If yes, please provide details.


Ramsar Small Grant Fund has provided a tractor to Matsalu wetland;

Within HELCOM PITF MLW framework and supported by various donors (WWF, EU Phare, World Bank, management plans have been prepared for Matsalu and Käina bays;

EU LIFE programma has supported the preparation of management plan for Alam-Pedja wetland;

Danish Government supports the preparation of management plan for Soomaa National Park.

Several grants for various purposes (mostly public awareness) have been received from different donors.

7.6 Does your government make an annual budgetary allocation to support the conservation and wise use of wetlands within your country? Yes/No. If yes, is this a specific allocation to a wetlands programme or as part of a larger environment or natural resource management budget?

Yes. Allocations are a part of the budget of nature conservation programma.

7.7 If your country has a development assistance programme, does it include funds earmarked for wetland conservation and wise use in other countries? Yes/No. If yes, please give details.


7.8 Is there a formal process in place for consultation between the Ramsar Administrative Authority and the development assistance programme in your country, where one exists? Yes/No. If yes, what is that process.


Ramsar Strategic Plan - General Objective 8
To provide the Convention with the required institutional mechanisms and resources.

8.1 Has your government made voluntary financial contributions, other than the invoiced contributions or to the Small Grants Fund, to further the work of the Convention globally? Yes/No. If yes, please provide details.

Yes, Ministry of Environment has partly paid the travel costs of the participants in various meetings (e.g., to Riga).

8.2 If your country is in arrears with the payment of its annual contributions to the Ramsar Convention, please indicate the reasons for this situation and the prospects for paying these arrears in the near future.

Optional section - Participation of non-government organizations in the implementation of the Convention

These are optional questions relating to cooperation with and involvement of non-government organizations in the implementation of the Convention.

At COP6 some 42 NGOs made the "Brisbane NGO pledge of support for the Ramsar Convention". The Standing Committee agreed that for COP7 there should be an effort made to gauge the level and type of cooperation which is occurring between government Administrative Authorities and the national and international NGOs with an interest in wetlands issues.

In this optional section of the National Report, you are asked to describe the nature of the cooperation and relationship with any other international, regional, national and provincial NGOs operating within your country.

9.1 Approximately how many NGOs have wetlands as part of their regular "business" in your country?

Please break this down between international, regional and national/provincial organizations.

Mostly three national NGOs - Estonian Fund for Nature, Estonian Ornithological Society and Estonian Society for Protection of Hereditary Habitats.

9.2 Is there a regular forum or mechanism through which these NGOs express their views on wetland conservation and Ramsar implementation:

a. to each other? Yes/No


b. to the government? Yes/No


9.3 Does your government include one or more NGO representatives on its official delegation to Ramsar COPs? Yes/No


9.4 Do any of the NGOs run programmes aimed at Education and Public Awareness about wetlands in your country? Yes/No. If yes, please give details (Refer also to question 3.1).

Yes, project Coastwatch (including subprojects like Riverwatch and Lakewatch) has been run by Estonian Fund for Nature for several years.

9.5 Where they exist, do Ramsar site management advisory committees include NGO representatives? If yes, please give details

NGOs are usually represented in the Steering Committees at the projects aimed at the preparation of management plans.

9.6 Describe the themes of the Convention (refer to General Objectives 1-8 of the Strategic Plan) where you perceive the national/provincial NGOs to be most active.

Preparing inventories, making conservation proposals, public awareness, working camps to assist in management.

Final comments:

10.1 General comments on implementation of the Ramsar Strategic Plan.

Estonia joined Ramsar Convention quite recently and most important is, that we have quickly proceeded with first essential steps in fulfilling the obligations deriving from agreement.

10.2 Observations concerning the functioning of, relations with, and services provided by:

a. The Ramsar Standing Committee
b. The Ramsar Scientific and Technical Review Panel
c. The Ramsar Bureau
d. The Ramsar NGO partners

All very positive observations.

10.3 Any other general observations and/or recommendations for the future.

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Annex: Country Table for Estonia

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