Ramsar Bulletin Board, 2 December 1996
The 96th Contracting Party -- Malawi. UNESCO has informed the Bureau that on 14 November Malawi deposited its papers of accession, and the treaty will enter into force for that country on 14 March 1997. Malawi designated Lake Chilwa as its first Ramsar site; this 224,800-hectare site is partly under government control but mainly under customary ownership, under the control of local chiefs. It is a shallow, enclosed endorheic saline lake, surrounded by an area of dense swamps and marshes, surrounded in turn by a belt of seasonally inundated grassland floodplain. The lake annually supports about 153 and 30 species of resident and palearctic (migratory) waterbirds respectively. About 23 species attain the Ramsar 1% threshold, including the Pinkbacked Pelican, Blackheaded Heron, Greyheaded Gull, African Skimmer, and Marsh Owl. The socio-economically useful land practices include fishing, agriculture (cultivation of rice and dimba), and human settlements. Lake Chilwa annually contributes about 25-30% of Malawi's total fish production. [29/11/96]
Spain to develop a National Strategy. According to the newsletter of the Spanish Ministry of Environment, "Spain is going to develop a National Strategy for Wetland Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use. This strategy will be prepared in collaboration with the Autonomous Communities. The work will be carried out under the auspices of the Spanish Ramsar Committee." Further information from Antonio Fernandez de Tejada (fax +34 1 347 6303). [22/11/96]
Austria's ninth Ramsar site. Hörfeld is the name of the ninth Austrian wetland to be added to the List of Wetlands of International Importance, and the first to be shared by more than one of Austria's nine federal provinces -- Carinthia (Kärnten) and Styria (Steiermark). Hörfeld is a 173 hectare stream-fed freshwater marsh located in a valley bottom. It is of great ecological value, supporting a variety of rare and endangered plants and breeding birds. The latter include Corncrake (Crex crex), whose numbers have declined precipitously in much of Europe in recent decades. A nature trail for educational purposes is planned around the perimeter of the site. [19/11/96]
Three new sites in the United Kingdom. Morecambe Bay is the largest and most significant of three new estuarine Ramsar sites designated by the UK as of 4 October. Covering almost 40,000 hectares, this vast intertidal embayment in northwest England is the country's second-largest Ramsar site and one of the UK's top five wetlands in terms of the number of wintering and migrating waterbirds supported. During the five-winter period 1990/91 to 1994/95, Morecambe Bay hosted an average of more than 224,000 waterfowl and shorebirds, with no fewer than 11 species present in internationally important numbers. The designation has been pending for some years, awaiting the outcome of governmental and other official consultations. However, the successful outcome, including classification as a European Union "Special Protection Area," in addition to the Ramsar designation, has been widely welcomed by conservation and environment groups. The other two 4 October designations from the United Kingdom are the Alde-Ore Estuary in Suffolk (2,437 ha.) and Foulness in Essex (10,969 ha). [18/11/96]
Israel becomes the 95th Contracting Party. UNESCO has today informed the Bureau that Israel, which had deposited an instrument of ratification some time ago, has now deposited maps and descriptions of its first two Ramsar sites, En Afeq Nature Reserve and Hula Nature Reserve. With the formalities thus completed, the Convention will enter into force for Israel four months after 12 November, that is, on 12 March 1997, and Israel can be welcomed as the Convention's 95th CP.
Hula is understood to be one of the best known examples of wetland restoration in the world. The floodplain was drained for agriculture by early settlers and recently reflooded (at least in part) because agriculture failed to prosper and for conservation of biodiversity. [15/11/96]
And Ukraine is poised! This morning the Bureau was informed by Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Movchan that "on October 29, 1996 the Parliament of Ukraine ratified the Bern Convention, the Ramsar Convention, and the Convention on Climate Change. The relevant laws have been accessed also." Once UNESCO has been formally notified of this decision and received the required documentation, including site descriptions and maps, Ukraine too will become a Contracting Party to the Convention, hopefully the 96th.
Ukraine's progress report presented at the Brisbane COP in March indicated that 22 sites, totalling some 648,000 hectares, would be designated for the Ramsar List. Three of these are among the former USSR sites designated in 1976, now within Ukraine territory, the status of which has been a little bit unclear. The fourth, Dunai Plavni (the Ukrainian part of the Danube Delta) is being considered for designation as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and there is good grounds for hope that it, too, will become an acknowledged Ramsar site. [15/11/96]