World Wetlands Day 2004 -- United Kingdom, Guernsey

04/02/2004

MEDIA RELEASE
STRICTLY EMBARGOED UNTIL 2 FEBRUARY 2004

PROPOSED RAMSAR SITE BOUNDARIES PUBLISHED FOR CONSULTATION

Notes for Editors

The Convention on Wetlands (otherwise known as the Ramsar Convention) is a global environmental treaty which provides a framework for national action and international co-operation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources, as a means of achieving sustainable development throughout the world.

The concept of 'wise use' is at the heart of the Convention. Wise use basically means making use of a wetland in a sustainable way so that it may yield the greatest continuous benefit to present generations whilst maintaining its potential to meet the needs of future generations.

The UK's signatory to the Convention was extended to cover the Bailiwick of Guernsey in 1999. Having signed up to the Convention, Guernsey is committed to designate at least one wetland site as a "Wetland of International Importance" (otherwise known as a Ramsar site). Nearby designated areas include the Southeast coast of Jersey, Baie du Mont Saint Michel, the Isles of Scilly, Poole Harbour, the Thames Estuary and Marshes, Southampton Water and the New Forest.

Over the past two years, the Board has been undertaking investigations and has been in consultation with stakeholders including land owners, States departments, user groups and conservation bodies with a view to identifying an area for designation.

World Wetlands Day takes place each year on 2nd February to mark the date when the UN Convention on Wetlands was signed in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971. World Wetlands Day is promoted around the globe in order to educate people of the importance of wetlands in our daily lives and encourage consideration of how we might help in their conservation and sustainable use.

The Board has chosen to commence a six-week consultation period regarding the proposed boundaries of the planned Ramsar site on 2nd February 2004, in order to mark World Wetlands Day and bring attention to the importance of conserving wetlands for biodiversity and the use of the local population.

START

The Board of Administration is pleased to mark World Wetlands Day 2004 by commencing a six week consultation period on the proposed boundaries of the planned Ramsar Site on the west coast of Guernsey.

The Board's proposed area for designation as a "Wetland of International Importance" includes La Claire Mare, La Rousse Mare (the Colin Best Nature Reserve), the shingle bank Les Anguillieres, the western end of L'Eree Headland, Lihou Island and the area of coast between the northern end of L'Eree and Le Catioroc.

Within this relatively small area there is an amazing variety of interesting habitat types including rocky, gravely and sandy shoreline, the sub-littoral zone, coastal grassland, salt marsh, reed bed and saline lagoon. The proposed site also includes vegetated shingle banks, sea grass beds and wet grassland which are internationally threatened habitat types. These habitats support a rich diversity of animals and plants. For example, 214 different species of seaweed have been recorded on the shore around Lihou Island - an exceptionally large number for such a small area.

The area also has a rich cultural heritage, many important archaeological and historical remains and L'Eree Headland has been identified as one of eleven "Areas of Geological Importance" in Guernsey.

President of La Société Guernesiaise, David Le Conte, is keen to see this area receive special recognition:

"The land and shore area from Le Catioroc to Lihou Island includes not only significant wetlands but also a large diversity of habitats, as well as historic and prehistoric remains, and is certainly worthy of special recognition. La Société would welcome the existence of a Ramsar site as it will bring special notice to the environmental, cultural and heritage aspects of the area."

The Board's Deputy Chief Executive, Steve Smith, believes that this is an exciting project for Guernsey:

"Designation of this area under the Ramsar Convention will elevate the status of this site to that of "International Importance" and as such this will be the first area of land in the Bailiwick of Guernsey to be recognised at national and international level for its importance for wildlife. This recognition will provide a positive focal point for new education, tourism and environmental initiatives which will contribute to the long-term conservation and wise use of this site and other wetland areas in the Bailiwick."

Steve Smith, explains more about the Ramsar Convention and what it seeks to achieve:

"The Ramsar Convention aims to promote the conservation of wetlands and their resources through their "wise use". Wise use basically means making use of a wetland in a sustainable way so that it may yield the greatest continuous benefit to present and future generations."

Steve Smith emphasises that the introduction of this designation will not affect the current traditional activities undertaken in the area:

"Unlike many international treaties, the Ramsar Convention is not cluttered with rules and regulations prohibiting activities but instead seeks to promote wise use for the benefit of mankind. The Convention is about raising the standing of a designated site to that of International Importance and promoting the wise use of that site within the local community. Its approach is quite the opposite of attempting to ban activities but rather seeks to ensure that the activities are conducted in a sustainable manner. Conservation interests and wise-use of resources are compatible.

This philosophy fits very well with the States commitment to sustainability and the Board's environmental and land management work."

The Vice President of the Board, Deputy Mike Best, has welcomed the fact that the importance of Guernsey's shoreline could be recognised internationally in the future:

"Guernsey's shoreline is a resource of great economic, cultural, scientific and recreational value for islanders. The designation of an area of the shore as a Ramsar site is an exciting prospect as it will recognise, on an international stage, its value and importance for wildlife and the people of Guernsey.

I particularly welcome the prospect of this designation because it will not affect any traditional activities, such as ormering."

The Board is inviting people's views and comments regarding the proposed boundaries of the planned Ramsar site and in particular would welcome feedback regarding the seaward extent of the site. Two options have been proposed by the Board for consultation; (a) the suggested minimum seaward extent of the site and (b) a slightly enlarged site which extends further offshore from Le Catioroc to La Conchée to the north and encompasses the offshore reef of rocks, Les Trois Peres, situated to the south west of Lihou Island.

A display regarding the Ramsar Convention and the proposed local Ramsar site will be available for viewing at Guille-Alles Library on the first floor from 2nd - 20th February 2004.

The Consultation period ends on 15th March 2004.

STOP

Further Information:

Detailed information regarding the Convention is provided on the Ramsar Bureau's website: www.ramsar.org

Contacts:

Steve Smith, Deputy Chief Executive, Board of Administration
Tel: 717000 Fax: 725887

David Le Conte, President, La Société Guernesiaise
Tel: 264847 Fax: 264871

28th January 2004

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