Progress on the Western Hemisphere Migratory Species Initiative


1st meeting of the Interim Steering Committee of the Western Hemisphere Migratory Species Initiative, Sarapiquí, Costa Rica, August 10-13, 2004

Margarita Astrálaga, the Ramsar Convention's focal point for this initiative, was present and filed this brief report:

"Representatives of Colombia, Costa Rica, Santa Lucia, Uruguay, and the United States, as well as the Ramsar and CMS Secretariats, WWF, BirdLife International, American Bird Conservancy and the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, participated in the Interim Steering Committee's first meeting, held in Costa Rica 10-13 August, in order to develop a clear outline for the Western Hemisphere Migratory Species Initiative. The local hosts were WWF, the Ministry of the Environment and Energy of Costa Rica, and the Secretariat of the Inter-American Convention on the Protection of Sea Turtles, and the WWF-Central America office made all logistical arrangements, with financial assistance from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The gathering was highly successful, and amongst the main outcomes were:

1) expansion of the initiative to include all migratory species, covering taxa as diverse as birds, marine turtles, marine and terrestrial mammals, fishes and invertebrates;

2) a draft strategy document describing the Preamble, Vision, Mission, Guiding Principles, Objectives, Steering Committee, Membership and Meetings of the initiative; and

3) a strategy for buy-in and launching of the initiative.

The final name of the initiative has not yet been decided upon. The draft strategy will be circulated for comments to all participants as well as to the governments of the region, with the intention of having a finalized draft for endorsement by the Environment Ministers Forum of Latin America and the Caribbean to take place in February 2005 in Venezuela. The full report of the meeting, as well as the draft strategy, will be ready for circulation in a few days' time."

Ms Astrálaga, Ramsar's Senior Advisor for the Americas, took advantage of this visit to Costa Rica to pay a number of other calls. On 16 August, in meetings organized by Marco Solano and Julio Montes de Oca, she was able to meet with Minister Carlos Manuel Rodriguez to discuss the results of the Initiative meeting and other issues concerning the implementation of the Convention in Costa Rica, followed by a session with Marco Vinicio Araya, Jorge Gamboa, and other officials of the Protected Areas System responsible for the implementation of the Ramsar Convention on a daily basis. They highlighted as their priorities the finalization of the wetlands inventory for Costa Rica by December 2004, restoration of wetlands, dealing with an increasing number of complaints about threats to wetlands, preparing a manual for regional authorities on procedures to implement Ramsar, research, training of regional authorities, updating Ramsar Information Sheets as called for by the COP every six years, and finalization of the country's draft wetlands strategy by December 2004. They also discussed issues related to the removal of the Ramsar Site Palo Verde from the Montreux Record and the inclusion of Caño Negro.

Ms Astrálaga also met with the staff of IUCN-ORMA, the IUCN Mesoamerica Office, for discussions about wetland priorities for Central America and the most pressing needs for reciprocal support from Ramsar's perspective, and then with the coordinator of FUNGAP (Fundación para la Gestión Ambiental Patricipativa [Foundation for Participatory Environmental Management]) to discuss progress on implementation of Ramsar Resolution VIII.36 on participatory management of wetlands. There she learnt the good news that IUCN-Netherlands has approved the request for funding and FUNGAP will begin implementation on the ground as from October, with the intention of having a book on success case studies on wetland participatory management in the Americas ready for unveiling at Ramsar COP9 in Uganda in November 2005.

The Initiative meeting

(photos by Carlos Drews, WWF)

The Steering Committee participants in Selva Verde

The Sarapiqui river study tour

(photos by Carlos Drews, WWF)

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