The Ramsar Bulletin Board, 5 July 2005

Chilean documentary wins Ramsar/MedWet film award. The Chilean documentary 'Veil of Berta', by Esteban Larrain, was crowned on Saturday 25 June as the Ramsar/MedWet best film for water and wetlands for 2005, at the ecofilms international film and audiovisual arts festival, Rhodes, 21-26 June 2005. Set in a high altitude river basin in the south of Chile, the film highlights the struggle of a community of native Pehuenche villagers against the building of a dam that will change the flow of the Bio-Bio river and flood the lands where they have lived for centuries. The golden deer statuette of ecofilms was presented by Ramsar Secretary General Mr Peter Bridgewater in a full house venue, hosted in the National Film Theater of Rhodes on Saturday 25 June. Here are the details, with some still from the film. [05/07/05]


Morocco adds 20 varied new Ramsar sites. The Secretariat is delighted to be able to report that that Government of Morocco has designated 20 new Ramsar sites, in all parts of the country from the Atlas mountains to the seacoasts on both the Atlantic and Mediterranean. As Ramsar's Lucia Scodanibbio demonstrates in the accompanying story, there is a great variety among the new sites, not only in their wetland types -- from mountain lakes to estuaries, from oases to gorges to dammed reservoirs -- but also in the services they perform in terms of biodiversity, hydrological functions, and livelihoods in an essentially arid environment. Morocco now has 24 Wetlands of International Importance covering a surface area of 272,010 hectares. Lucia has prepared an synoptic story in English and French on the new sites, as well as brief site descriptions to accompany the story and fill out the Annotated Ramsar List. [29/06/05]


Czech Republic lists two Ramsar sites on the Montreux Record. The Government of the Czech Republic has informed the Secretariat of its wish to include two additional Ramsar sites in the Montreux Record, as of 6 June 2005. The Montreux Record, created by the Parties in 1990 (in Resolution 4.8 of COP4, held in Montreux, Switzerland), is "a record of Ramsar sites where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference", intended to bring them to international attention for support and advice towards positive conservation action. The two sites are "Mokrady dolního Podyjí (floodplain of lower Dyje River)" and "Poodri" - the first is part of the tripartite transboundary Ramsar site called the "Trilateral Ramsar Site Floodplains of the Morava-Dyje-Danube Confluence" shared by the Czech and Slovak Republics and Austria; the second is part of the Odra/Oder floodplain in the northeast part of the country (with water flowing to the Baltic Sea). The reason for the Montreux listing is that "both of these Ramsar sites are in danger for reason of a planning construction of Danube-Odra.-Elbe channel", and Austria's associated Donau-March-Auen was included in the Record in 1990 (and remains there) for the same reason. In coming months, Czech officials and Ramsar Secretariat staff will be working together to find a remedy and eventually be able to remove the sites from the Record.

There are presently 57 Ramsar sites listed in the Montreux Record, which for complicated reasons is probably a small fraction of the Wetlands of International Importance that should be included there. Brief descriptions of the Czech Republic's extremely interesting Ramsar sites can be found here, and photographs of some of them are sprinkled all over the Ramsar Web site. [28/06/05]


Antigua and Barbuda joins the Ramsar Convention. The Secretariat is delighted to report that the Caribbean state of Antigua and Barbuda has completed the accession procedure and joined the Convention on Wetlands as its 146th Contracting Party. As UNESCO received the required documents on 2 June, the Convention will enter into force for Antigua and Barbuda on 2 October 2005. The new Party's obligatory first Wetland of International Importance has been designated as "Codrington Lagoon" in Barbuda - although the accompanying Ramsar Information Sheet has not yet been received, according to Derek Scott and Montserrat Carbonell, A Directory of Neotropical Wetlands (IUCN and IWRB, 1986) Codrington Lagoon (17°40'N 061°51'W) at that time could be described as "a large saline lagoon of 2,650 hectares, separated from the sea by a sand barrier and with a narrow connection to the sea at its north end; there are several small islands in the lagoon, about 900 hectares of mangrove swamps . . . and associated brackish to saline marshes. . . . The area is known to be very rich in waterfowl, particularly Ardeidae, migratory shorebirds and Laridae. . . . Sea turtles nest on the adjacent beaches, and there is an important lobster fishery in the lagoon." Antigua and Barbuda is warmly welcomed to the "Ramsar family". [24/06/05]


Update on the Danube Delta canal. A joint UNESCO (Man and the Biosphere Programme) and Ramsar Convention mission visited Ukraine on 27-31 October 2003 in order to examine different choices to re-establish a navigable waterway through the Ukrainian part of the Transboundary Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve and Ramsar Site. In its report (Ramsar Advisory Mission 53), the mission reflected on issues concerning navigation vs. biodiversity and delta dynamics, the need for compensation of ecological damage, and the need for transboundary cooperation. Much has happened since then and the concerns of international bodies remain, so it's timely that, following his visit there in April 2005, Ramsar's Tobias Salathé has provided this update on the situation and prospects for the future. [24/06/05]


Environment conventions and the private sector. On 16-17 June the OECD, in collaboration with the Finnish Ministry for the Environment and the Finnish Environment Institute, organized a workshop on how to help implement multilateral environment agreements through private investing. The Ramsar Convention was invited to join the party to explain its longstanding partnership with the Groupe DANONE, as an example of how the private sector can help MEAs in implementing their objectives. A number of the obstacles to fruitful cooperation were debated and some suggestions were made towards overcoming them, and Sebastià Semene Guitart, who represented Ramsar there, has filed this brief report of the proceedings. [24/06/05]


Ramsar training and the Iraqi wetlands. Ramsar and UNEP-IETC working together for the Iraqi Marshlands. Twenty-eight Iraqi participants are currently in Cairo, Egypt, benefiting from a 'Training Module on Wetland Management'. This course that Ramsar is assisting in is one of 10 training modules organized by the United Nations Environment Programme, Division of Technology Industry and Economics, International Environmental Technology Centre (UNEP-DTIE-IETC). The ultimate goal? The restoration and future sustainable management of the Iraqi marshlands. Here is Sandra Hails' brief report on the progress so far [22/06/05].


Standing Committee ponders, decides. The Ramsar Standing Committee spent the week of 6-10 June in mostly solemn deliberations in preparation for the Convention's COP9 in Uganda in November. The Chair, Gordana Beltram (Slovenia), with the help of the Chairs of the Subgroups on COP9 and Finance, Uganda and Canada, led about 75 participants through a complex agenda of policy, budgetary, and guidance documents for recommendation to the COP. With Subgroup meetings both before the plenaries and during all the breakfasts and lunchtimes, the plenary sessions ran from the 8th to the 10th and set records for productivity.

On the technical side, the SC advised on the large body of work produced by the Scientific and Technical Panel (STRP) for the guidance of the Parties and approved most of it for the consideration of the COP and some of it for further drafting and comment. Amongst the most notable of these are an exemplary body of water-related guidance for the Parties, framework documents for the interpretation of the Convention's existing and new guidance, and proposed new definitions of "wise use" and "ecological character" that are meant to bring them into consonance with modern terminology, especially the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment's emphasis upon "ecosystem services". A new ninth Criterion for Identifying Wetlands of International Importance is also being proposed, all having to do with "aquatic megafauna".

On the policy side, the SC has agreed a budget for recommendation to the COP which includes new budget lines for financing the Convention's CEPA Programme (for communications, education, and public awareness) adopted by Resolution VIII.31 and for providing seed money for the start-up of further Ramsar "regional initiatives" comprising both the regional network model based upon the famously successful MedWet Initiative and the regional capacity-building centre model like the Ramsar CREHO centre based in Panama. The SC is making recommendations for funding and/or endorsement of a number of these for the COP's consideration.

The other especially significant result is the SC's decision on the winners of the triennial Ramsar Wetland Conservation Award in the categories of science, management, and education, each to be accompanied by the US$ 10,000 Evian Prize donated by the private sector Danone Group and all to be conferred in a suitably celebratory manner in ceremonies at COP9 in Kampala in November. The winners are listed here and further background, photos, interviews, and what not else will surely follow along pretty soon. In the science category, Prof. Shuming Cai of the Chinese Academy of Science; in the management category, Dr. SH. A. Nezami Baloochi of the Department of Environment in the Province of Gilan, Islamic Republic of Iran; and in the education category, a shared award between the Wetlands Centre Australia in Shortland, NSW, Australia and Ms Reiko Nakamura of the Ramsar Centre Japan.

The full report of the meeting will be available next week in English, and the text of the 31 decisions will be unveiled in English, French, and Spanish mere days after that. [16/06/05]


Winners of the Ramsar Award for 2005. Since 1999 the Ramsar Convention, with the financial support of the Danone Group, has conferred the triennial Ramsar Award for Wetland Conservation upon worthy practitioners in the pursuit of Ramsar sustainable use values throughout the world. Profiles of the previous winners, in 1999 and 2002, can be seen here, and now we are able to announce the winners of the 2005 edition of the Awards, whose conferral ceremony will take place at the 9th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Kampala, Uganda, in November 2005. At its 31st meeting last week, the Standing Committee unanimously agreed to confer the Ramsar Wetland Conservation Awards for 2005 upon the following laureates: in the science category, Prof. Shuming Cai of the Chinese Academy of Science; in the management category, Dr. SH. A. Nezami Baloochi of the Department of Environment in the Province of Gilan, Islamic Republic of Iran; and in the education category, a shared award between the Wetlands Centre Australia in Shortland, NSW, Australia and Ms Reiko Nakamura of the Ramsar Centre Japan. The press release by Sebastià Semene Guitart can be seen here in English, Français, and Español, and links to PDF versions can found there as well. Much more detail on these exemplary demonstrations of Ramsar principles at work will be posted soon. [14/06/05]



New Ramsar sites for World Environment Day. On the occasion of World Environment Day, 5 June 2005, three Parties to the Ramsar Convention have reaffirmed their environmental commitment by designating new Wetlands of International Importance. Canada has named the Columbia Wetlands (15,070 hectares, 50°41'N 115°13'W), a Wildlife Management Area in the western province of British Columbia. Honduras has designated its sixth Ramsar site, the Subcuenca del Lago de Yojoa (43,640 ha, 14°51'N 88°00'W), which has within it 13 wetland types and unique ecosystems for Honduras, such as evergreen low mountain forest and the highest karst mountain in Central America. Mexico has named three new wetlands, bringing its total to 58 Wetlands of International Importance: these are Humedales de la Laguna La Popotera (1,975 ha, 18°40'N 095°31'W) in Veracruz, Laguna de Zacapu (40 ha, 19°50'N 101°47'W) in Michoacán, and Laguna de Zapotlan (1,496 ha, 19°45'N 103°29'W) in Jalisco. Read more about these in English and Español here: Canada, Honduras, and Mexico. [06/05/05]


Wetland training in the Czech Republic. A second seminar entitled Wetlands and Its Role in Landscape Functioning of the National Wetland Training Programme (launched by the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic in cooperation with the non-governmental organisation ENKI p.b.c.) took place from 24 to 26 May 2005 in the Trebon Basin Biosphere Reserve and Protected Landscape Area, that also includes two Ramsar sites - Trebon Fishponds and Trebon Peatlands. The programme is expected to "improve wetland conservation in the country, strengthen the implementation of Ramsar Convention in the Czech Republic and promote dialogue and cooperation between research and nature conservation bodies." Here is a brief report by Martina Eiseltová and Libuse Vlasakova, with photos by Jiri Safar. [01/06/05]


Oil activities suspended at Llancanelo. The Laguna de Llancanelo (65,000 hectares) in Argentina's Mendoza Province was added to the List of Wetlands of International Importance in November 1995. In July 2001, the Government of Argentina, concerned about possible threats to the sites associated with renewed petroleum extraction activities using horizontal drilling techniques, formally requested that Llancanelo be placed on the Montreux Record list of sites where change in ecological character has occurred, is occurring, or is likely to occur, and at the same time requested a Ramsar Advisory Mission to study the problem and offer advice. Accordingly, Ramsar's Margarita Astrálaga led a team on an advisory mission to the site and region in late October 2001. The Mission's report, which can be seen here, included a list of recommendations for the national and provincial authorities and for the oil company Repsol-YPF, which were studied by the courts in the preparation of the Mendoza supreme court's decision to suspend petroleum extraction activities at the site. Here is a reprint of the story from EcoAméricas. [27/05/05]


Norway hosts working group on Ramsar initiative for Nordic and Baltic countries. Following last year’s very successful Nordic Wetland Conference and Ramsar Meeting on 4-7 May in Ørlandet on Trondheim Fjord and the publication of the “Nordic Wetland Conservation” report by the Nordic Council of Ministers, Norway invited the Ramsar administrative authorities from nine Nordic and Baltic countries to a working group meeting in Trondheim on 3-4 March 2005. The group included delegates from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, the Russian Federation and Sweden, plus Thymio Papayannis from the Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative (MedWet) and Tobias Salathé from the Ramsar Secretariat. Here is Tobias' report of the meeting, with photos, and the official meeting report, entitled The Nordic-Baltic Wetlands Initiative, can be seen here in PDF format. [26/05/05]


Madagascar designates privately-owned lake with high endemism.The Secretariat is very pleased to announce that Madagascar, which joined the Convention in 1998, has designated its fifth Wetland of International Importance, the Parc de Tsarasaotra (5 hectares, 18°52'S 047°32'E), as of 9 May 2005. As described by Ramsar's Lucia Scodanibbio, based on the RIS submitted with the site designation, Tsarasaotra, one of the smallest Ramsar sites to be designated thus far, is a lake located on the outskirts of Madagascar's capital Antananarivo. Being in an urban environment, it plays an extremely important role in providing a refuge and nesting site to waterbirds such as herons and ducks inhabiting the highlands located in the centre of the country. More details here. [23/05/05]

Madagascar désigne un lac privé très riche en espèces endémiques. Le Secrétariat a le plaisir d’annoncer que Madagascar, qui a adhéré à la Convention en 1998, a désigné sa cinquième zone humide d’importance internationale, le Parc de Tsarasaotra (5 hectares, 18°52'S 047°32'E), le 9 mai 2005. Sur la base de la FDR fournie par Madagascar, Lucia Scodanibbio décrit le site comme suit : Situé très proche du centre ville de la capitale de Madagascar, Antananarivo, le Parc de Tsarasaotra est un des sites Ramsar les plus petits. Le lac est une zone exceptionnelle au milieu d’un environnement urbanisé, servant à la reproduction et au refuge des oiseaux d’eau, en particulier des hérons et des canards qui se trouvent sur les hauts plateaux qui parcourent le centre du pays. Plus d'informations.


Long-sought woodpecker rediscovered in US Ramsar site. Marina Ratchford, in the Ramsar Administrative Authority in the USA, the Division of International Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, writes that the recent rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), long thought to be extinct, in the Cache River - Cypress Creek Wetlands Ramsar site in the state of Arkansas, has been the occasion of a new commitment of resources by the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture to the protection of the bird and its habitat. Here is the press release (PDF) from the US Department of the Interior. [18/05/05]


Progress report on the Asia regional meeting.The Ramsar pre-COP9 regional meeting for Asia got under way in Beijing, China, on Saturday 13 May 2005 and runs to the 16th. Welcoming remarks were made by the Vice Minister for State Forestry Administration, Exc. Zhao Xue Min, and the Secretary General of the Convention, Peter Bridgewater, and the first day's sessions covered overviews of Ramsar implementation in China and in Asia generally as well as discussions of the themes coming up for consideration by the Convention's Standing Committee and Conference of the Parties. Here is a brief report of the first day of the meeting, with a number of photographs. [16/05/05]


Congo's progress in implementing the Ramsar Convention. The Ramsar Secretariat is pleased to announce that the Secretary General of the Convention has signed a contract with the Government of Congo under Ramsar's Swiss Grant for Africa scheme. The funds are going to assist this country, rich in water and natural resources, in identifying the environmental and health risks that the conflict of 1996-1997 has posed for Congo's wetlands, and it will enable the country to come up with rehabilitation priorities for degraded wetlands that are integrated within the national reconstruction programmes. This project will also be key to laying the foundations for a national wetlands policy for the country. Here is a brief report from Ramsar's Lucia Scodanibbio, with photographs of a prospective Ramsar site by Tim Dodman. [14/05/05]

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