Further progress on assessing the cultural dimension of wetlands

27/05/2004

Moving ahead on the cultural dimension

The 8th meeting of the Ramsar Contracting Parties, in Valencia, Spain, 2002, adopted Resolution VIII.19 on Guiding principles for taking into account the cultural values of wetlands for the effective management of sites. Following discussions with the Special Advisor on Med Wet, Thymio Papayannis, the Secretariat is attempting to work with selected Contracting Parties and MedWet to compile some case studies where cultural values are being used in wetland identification and management. Some of these examples will obviously be Mediterranean in focus, but to ensure a balance, and appropriate global coverage, discussions were held last week with government representatives at various levels in Australia to encourage the development of a package of examples from that country. One possible new nomination is under consideration in Australia which will allow for consideration of indigenous cultural values, while nominating using the existing criteria.

A second example, in Tasmania, is the existing Moulting Lagoon Ramsar site, where there is a record of long usage by Aboriginal people and European settlers. Aboriginal people used the resources of the lake, including gathering eggs and some birds, practices which were carried on by settlers arriving from Europe. While there was little management of the area by Aboriginal people, and the level of take was light, it is nonetheless an example of the special values of a Ramsar site being important to past and present Aboriginal Australians. Duck shooting continues today, although carefully regulated by the State government, which is also looking a broader management plan for the whole lagoon.

Many aspects of the site are interesting because of the unique hydrological mixing of the waters, producing a gradation of shoreline vegetation from highly saline to brackish mid-lagoon and fresh in the upper reaches. Pictured below is Secretary General Peter Bridgewater discussing vegetation patterns in the Lagoon with Stewart Blackhall, Wildlife Biologist and Ramsar focal point for Tasmania, from the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment.

To help inform the on-going discussions of how to integrate the cultural dimension into the working of the convention, a package of such studies, hopefully from all regions, will be prepared for Contracting Parties by COP9. Any prospective studies or ideas are welcome to be submitted to the Secretariat to e-mail ssg@ramsar.org.

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