The Ramsar Bulletin Board, 3 December 1999

Belarus becomes the Convention’s 117th Contracting Party. UNESCO has informed the Bureau that it has received from the Government of Belarus a declaration of succession to the former Soviet Union and the Ramsar Information Sheet accompanying its designation of "Sporovsky Biological Reserve (‘zakaznik’) of national importance" as its first Ramsar site. The 19,384-hectare site is situated in the floodplain of the middle course of the Yaselda River, 2km south of the town of Beryoza in the Brest region. It includes one of the largest lowland mesotrophic sedge fen mires in Europe. On much of the mire the hydrological regime has been disrupted by drainage canal systems, but much of the site "appears to be in a condition very close to the natural one". It represents one of the largest European habitats of the Aquatic Warbler, a globally threatened species. The land belongs to the state and is rented by about 20 collective farms and forestry enterprises; in 1999 it was declared a biological reserve of national importance, with all drainage and land reclamation prohibited and economic uses of the land officially regulated. A UK Darwin Initiative-funded project, carried out by the UK’s RSPB and the Belarus Society for the Protection of Birds, is making a number of scientific studies of the site and will develop a management plan. [30/11/99]

South Africa's St Lucia system gains World Heritage statusGeoff Cowan, STRP member from the Administrative Authority in South Africa, writes: "The Greater St Lucia Wetland Park has been successfully inscribed in the list of World Heritage Sites. This site includes four of South Africa's Ramsar sites - the St Lucia System, Lake Sibaya, the Turtle Beaches and Coral Reefs of Tongaland, and the Kosi Bay System. I believe this extra recognition of the importance of these wetland systems will only help us in our efforts to conserve them."  See the press release right here. [3/12/99]

Update on management plan for Okavango Delta; texts of the Paris Protocol, 1982, and the Final Act of the Extraordinary COP in Paris, 1982. [30/11/99]

Asian Waterfowl Census 2000. Koji Tagi of Wetlands International-Asia Pacific has informed the Ramsar Forum of opportunities to participate in the AWC2000 -- here is his message and the TOR. [25/11/99]

Standing Committee news, Gland. If you've never been invaded by a Standing Committee, watch closely over the next few days. The 24th meeting of the Standing Committee to the Ramsar Convention is now in session, elbowing its way through a daunting agenda and determined to keep up the momentum established by the COP in San José last May.  Further reports will follow, not to mention photos of the gala reception on day 1, where the tiny little sandwiches had all disappeared before the photographer had run through a single roll of film. The draft Standing Committee agenda papers are available on this Web site. (Photo: Stephen Hunter of Australia, Chair of the Standing Committee, welcomes the participants and cautions them on the sheer bulk of the impending agenda.) [30/11/99]

UK extends the Morecambe Bay Ramsar site.  Part of the South Walney and Piel Channel Flats SSSI, Morecambe Bay SSSI, Duddon Estuary SSSI and Lune Estuary SSSI were designated as Morecambe Bay Special Protection Area (SPA) and Ramsar site on 4 October 1996. These SSSIs also form part of Morecambe Bay cSAC which was proposed by the Government to the European Commission under the Habitats Directive on 16 October 1996. Morecambe Bay SPA and Ramsar site will be extended by a further 1541 hectares to include an additional part of South Walney and Piel Channel Flats SSSI, part of Roudsea Wood and Mosses SSSI and the whole of the Wyre Estuary SSSI. The additional areas form an integral part of the feeding and roosting resource available to birds in the Morecambe Bay complex.  The total area of the UK's 148 Ramsar sites now comes to 755,385 hectares. [22/11/99].

1997 SGF project completed in the Slovak Republic. Restoration of wetlands along the Morava River (35,000 SFR). The Morava floodplains were designated as a Ramsar site in 1993. They preserve a unique system of oxbow lakes, wet meadows and floodplain forests with high biodiversity. Legal protection of the territory started in 1989; however, intensive water works did not take into consideration the fundamental ecological functions of water courses as natural biotopes. This resulted in the loss of both biological and landscape diversity and possibly of economic assets. During the project implementation the following tasks were performed: biological monitoring, restitution of habitats for Umbra crameri fish and restoration of Labske jazero and Oblaz wetlands. Restoration of these wetlands will improve habitats for nesting and wintering waterfowl of European importance. [23/11/99]

Ramsar Secretary General addresses 3rd COP of Convention to Combat Desertification. Mr Delmar Blasco, Secretary General of the Convention on Wetlands, addressed the 3rd Conference of the Parties of the CCD, now meeting in Recife, Brazil, and pledged Ramsar's continued efforts to develop further the cooperative relationships between the two Conventions.  He briefly described the ways in which the new Ramsar 'toolkit' of guidelines can be helpful to the CCD's objectives, and he expressed our Convention's support for the CCD secretariat's document ICCD/COP (3)/9 on Review of activities for the promotion and strengthening of relationships with other relevant conventions and relevant international organizations, institutions and agencies [available in PDF format from the CCD Web site,], which likewise calls for closer cooperation between the Conventions. [18/11/99].

Wetland training programme for the Asia-Pacific. In fulfilment of the Ramsar 25th Anniversary pledge made in Brisbane in 1996 by the Hon. Senator Robert Hill, Minister of Environment, Sport and Territories, his country is taking strong initiatives to provide training opportunities in wetland management for the Oceania region. Australia has recently established the "Asia-Pacific Wetland Managers Training Program", an initiative of the Commonwealth Government of Australia that is managed and funded through the National Wetlands Program, and $800,000 AUS has been committed to the initiative over the next three years. Read more about it here. [16/11/99].

1997 SGF project completed in Armenia. Restoration and rehabilitation of Lake Sevan Ramsar site (35,000 SFR). Armenia became a Contracting Party of the Convention on Wetlands in July 1993. Two sites were designated for the list of Wetlands of International Importance: Lake Arpi and Lake Sevan. Lake Sevan is the most important source of fresh water in the Trans-Caucasus Region with a unique diversity of plants, endemic fish fauna and landscapes. The lake itself and its basin are significant breeding, resting and wintering area for migratory waterfowl. Artificial increase of the outflow since 1991 has seriously disturbed the ecological character of the basin and most of the waterfowl habitats, such as small lakes, ponds and marshes, were drained and the number of birds decreased. The SGF grant helped to identify the most important waterfowl nesting areas and to develop an action plan for their rehabilitation and restoration, including the wise use of the lake through effective management of fishery. [16/11/99]

Special appeal for SGF funding. The Secretary General has issued a special call to donors for additional voluntary assistance to the 1999 round of Ramsar Small Grants Fund allocations.  Here is his summary of the situation: "Of the 87 project proposals received for the 1999 cycle, the Ramsar Bureau has determined 60 proposals to be deserving of financial support. The total amount required for these 60 projects is Swiss francs (SFR) 2,187,287 (approximately US$ 1,454,313). To date the Fund has received voluntary contributions and pledges for 1999 amounting to SFR 471,729 (approximately US$ 313,650)." Here is the SG's letter The Standing Committee will be here in not much more than two weeks' time, and they'll be authorizing project funding on the basis of the amounts pledged so far. [Francophone Donors: here's a French version of the SG's letter.] [12/11/99]

Ramsar brochure available on wetlands in western Asia.  Entitled Conservation and Wise Use of Wetlands in Western Asia , this colorful new 4-page brochure describes the Convention and its relevance to the region -- it's accompanied by a resource paper entitled "Wetlands in Western Asia", which provides information on the types of wetlands found in the region, the "goods and services" that wetlands provide, and the benefits that countries of the region stand to gain from joining the Convention on Wetlands. It urges the countries of the region toward international cooperation and national action for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. The paper is focused on the fragile ecosystems of the region, with emphasis on the vital role that wetlands in the arid belt of the world play in terms of human benefits and the rich biodiversity of the region. Web reprints of both are available on this site; in addition, a PDF version of the brochure is available for download. [12/11/99]

I. R. of Iran names 1006th Ramsar site. The Islamic Republic of Iran has designated its 19th Wetland of International Importance, Govater Bay and Hur-e-Bahu (75,000 hectares), comprising the riverine and estuarine wetlands of the lower Sarbaz River, including permanent freshwater pools and marshes, mangrove swamps and intertidal mudflats, and also the sandy beach of the adjacent Gulf of Oman coast in the extreme southeast of Iran (Persian Baluchestan) right to the border with Pakistan. The site is important for Crocodylus palustris and wintering waterfowl, notably Pelecanus crispus, shorebirds, gulls and terns. The Department of Environment notes that "The fact that Iran has established a Ramsar Site for its numerous values, among them the Marsh Crocodile, as opposed to the animal being simply a protected species, would create a greater national and international concern for the crocodile"; this is evidently the westernmost population of this South Asian species The site is also a BirdLife International "Important Bird Area". Govater Bay is the Convention’s 1006th Ramsar site, bringing Iran’s total surface area to 1,432,150 hectares and the global total to 71,824,492 ha. [5/11/99]

Global Review now available. Simon Nash of Wetlands International - Africa, Europe, Middle East writes to the Ramsar Forum: "We are pleased to announce that the full report of the Global review of wetland resources and priorities for wetland inventory is now available to browse on the Wetlands International - AEME web site. Go to: . As a quick reminder, the aims of the review were to: * provide an overview of international, regional and national wetland inventories as well as other general information on global wetland resources; * outline steps to quantify the extent of global wetland resources and to provide a baseline for measuring trends in wetland conservation or loss; * identify priorities for establishing, updating or extending wetland inventories so as to improve the accuracy with which the global wetland resource can be quantified and described in the future. Here you will find reports, databases and bibliographies produced by the team working on the Global Review of Wetland Resources and Priorities for Wetland Inventory.  [4/11/99]

African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement enters into force.  Interim Secretary Bert Lenten writes to the Ramsar Forum: "As of 1 November 1999 the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Waterbirds has entered into force. Currently 20 Range States have signed and ratified the AEWA. In the last few days Finland, Belgium, and South Africa have signed and/ or ratified the AEWA. The Interim Secretariat is aware that more countries have already started the process to become a Party some time ago and will also become Parties soon. From 6 to 9 November 1999 the First Session of the Meeting of the Parties will take place in Cape Town, South Africa. The agenda, including most of the documents are available on our Website in French and English. In particular the Report on the Conservation Status and the Conservation Guidelines are recommended for reading. [4/11/99]

1997 SGF project in Estonia successfully accomplished: "Integrating conservation and wise use for the management of Matsalu Ramsar site". A Ramsar Small Grants Fund contribution was made available to support the implementation of the "Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan for the Matsalu Area", prepared by the local task team of the HELCOM Working Group on Management Plans for Coastal Lagoons and Wetlands. The Matsalu Ramsar site covers nearly 50,000 hectares along Estonia’s western coast. The shores of Moonsund and Matsalu Bay include over 3000 ha of coastal meadows. Traditionally, these have been managed for grazing and hay production, but due to economic and agricultural changes, only small patches of the meadows were still used in this traditional way. In order to preserve their high biodiversity, this use has to continue. Thus, this key management activity was supported by the Ramsar SGF through arrangements with local farmers to maintain the regular mowing of the alluvial meadows and the provision of a tractor and mowing equipment. [2/11/99]

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