The Ramsar Bulletin Board, 23 December 2005

Rwanda joins the Convention. The Secretariat is delighted to announce that Rwanda has become the 148th Party to the Ramsar Convention, and the treaty as amended by the Paris Protocol of 1982 will come into force for Rwanda on 1 April 2006. The new Party's first Wetland of International Importance has been named as Rugezi-Bulera-Ruhondo, about which the Ramsar Information Sheet (RIS) has not yet been received. The Secretariat welcomes Rwanda to the Ramsar family and is pleased to note the expanding coverage of the Convention in the region. [23/12/05]

Ramsar mission report for Serbia and Montenegro. Following substantial declines in waterbird counts at Montenegro's Lake Skadar Ramsar site, and questions about illegal building, poaching, and industrial pollution within the national park and the effects of planned peat extraction, the government authorities invited a Ramsar expert to assess the situation and offer advice. Here is Ramsar's Tobias Salathé's report on his October mission to the site, with its thorough description of the issues, praise for the authorities' efforts so far, and suggestions for the best way forward. This is Ramsar Advisory Mission no. 56. [20/12/05]

Zambia names Lukanga Swamps as third Ramsar site. At a side event organized by WWF International and the Centre for African Wetlands during Ramsar's 9th meeting of the Conference of the Parties near Kampala, 8 November 2005, the Ramsar Secretariat was pleased to award Zambia's Minister of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources, the Honourable Kabinga Pande, a site certificate for the designation of the Lukanga Swamps, Zambia's third Wetland of International Importance. These swamps, very important from both an ecological and a socio-economic point of view, mark the first of five new site designations that Zambia and the Secretariat are in the process of working through. More details and photos are available here. [16/12/05]


Advisory Mission report for Georgia. The Georgian Ministry of Environment asked the Ramsar Secretariat to provide advice to the experts who are preparing a compensation package (in accordance with Article 4.2 of the Convention) for the construction of Kulevi oil terminal inside the "Wetlands of Central Kolkheti" Ramsar Site. Accordingly, in August 2005 Ramsar's Tobias Salathé led a Ramsar Advisory Mission to evaluate the situation, and the resulting report covers the background and weighs the issues raised by the Convention's Article 2.5 on restricting Ramsar site boundaries in the "urgent national interest" and Article 4.2 on the consequent need for compensation. Here is his report. [06/12/05]


Mali launches implementation of wetland action plan. Mali's government has officially launched the implementation of its national wetland policy, after it was adopted in September 2003. A ministerial decree (n° 05-2252/MAE- SG of 28th September 2005) has led to the creation of the coordination unit for the National Action Plan for Wetland Management (PAZU, the national wetland policy action plan). Ramsar's Senior Advisor for Africa, Mr Abou Bamba, reports on the purpose and future of the plan and notes that this is the first time that an African francophone state has created such a structure aimed at furthering the Convention's implementation in Africa. Here is his brief report in English and Français. [05/12/05]


IWMI joins the Ramsar Partners. Since time immemorial, the Convention on Wetlands has benefited enormously by its close association with four international organizations which were instrumental even in the drafting of the Convention text in the 1960s and formation of the first secretariat in 1988. These "International Organization Partners", or IOPs, enrich the implementation of the Convention both through their headquarters expertise and through their far-flung offices, centers, and projects on the ground throughout the world, and they presently serve as permanent observers on the Standing Committee and full members of the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP). In 1999, COP7 formalized that IOP status, confirmed the four traditional members (BirdLife International, IUCN-The World Conservation Union, Wetlands International, and WWF International), and drew up terms of reference for future applications for that status. Last week, in Resolution IX.16, COP9 reconfirmed the IOP status of those four and, in a major innovation, added the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) to that exclusive list.

IWMI is an autonomous, non-profit, international research and development institute (international non-governmental organization) and is one of 15 international agricultural research centers and Future Harvest Centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Through its 359 staff members, IWMI implements an ongoing programme of activities concerning water and land resources management, agriculture, livelihoods and the environment - it is headquartered in Sri Lanka but currently has offices in Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Lao PDR, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa, Thailand, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam as well. IWMI representatives have been working closely with the Ramsar STRP for some time and in the past triennium served as the Co-Lead of STRP Working Group 3 on Water Resources Management, as well as participating in the MedWet Committee and in the Ramsar/Wetlands International "Tsunami Working Group". We welcome IWMI as the Ramsar Convention's fifth International Organization Partner. [Further information about IWMI is available in COP9 DOC. 20 and from http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/.] [22/11/05]


MOC with Wetland Link International. On 12 November 2005 at the COP9 venue, Ramsar's Secretary General, Peter Bridgewater, and the Chief Executive of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Martin Spray, signed a memorandum of cooperation between the Ramsar Secretariat and the WWT's Wetland Link International (WLI). The new MOC establishes a mechanism for developing a collaborative structure in furtherance of the Ramsar CEPA Programme. The text is available here. [22/11/05]


New Standing Committee elected for 2006-2008. The Parties at COP9 in Uganda elected a new Standing Committee to carry the Convention's work forward until COP10 in South Korea in 2008. They are (for Africa) Benin, Gabon, Kenya, and Malawi; (for Asia) China, Islamic Republic of Iran, and Thailand; (for Europe) Austria, Czech Republic, Georgia, and Slovenia; (for the Neotropics) Bahamas, Ecuador, and El Salvador; (for North America) United States; and (for Oceania) Samoa. The SC members representing the hosts of the last and next COPs are Uganda and the Republic of Korea. The permanent SC observers remain the Netherlands and Switzerland, BirdLife International, IUCN-The World Conservation Union, Wetlands International, and WWF International, joined now by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

At the subsequent 33th meeting of the Standing Committee, the new members elected Uganda as their Chair for 2006-2008 and Bahamas as Vice Chair. A new Subgroup on Finance was approved, namely (in regional order) Benin, China, Czech Republic, Ecuador, USA, and Samoa, and the USA was elected Chair of the Subgroup. The first full business meeting of the Standing Committee will take place at the Secretariat in Gland on 10-13 April 2006. [21/11/05]


Republic of Korea will host next Ramsar COP. Last week, the 9th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, meeting in Uganda, enthusiastically accepted the invitation of the Republic of Korea to host COP10 sometime between September and November of 2008. The Korean delegation made a thorough and attractive presentation of the reasons for which Korea, with its interest in wetland conservation and extensive experience with international meetings in modern facilities, would be a good choice for the COP and hosted two social events in the evenings for the COP delegates to demonstrate their spirit of hospitality. According to the Korean delegation's presentation, the venue will be the southeastern city of Changwong, the capital of Gyeongsangnam-do Province. [21/11/05]


Standing Committee meets today. Today, 7 November, the Ramsar Standing Committee will be holding its 32nd meeting here at the COP9 venue in Munyonyo on Lake Victoria outside of Kampala, Uganda. The agenda includes a certain amount of regular business, like the selection of Small Grants Fund project proposals for this year, but most of it will be taken up by final preparations for COP9: the selection of a president and 2 vice-presidents for the COP, appointment of a credentials committee to ensure that all the national delegates are duly authorized by their governments to vote, establishment of a few COP committees, and consideration of a few recent draft Resolutions. The SC will then metamorphose into the "Conference Committee" and meet every morning to monitor the progress of the events. Tomorrow will be devoted to regional meetings and MedWet/Com VII, and the COP itself will formally begin with opening ceremonies, including presentation of the Ramsar Wetland Conservation Awards, in the evening, 8 November. The Earth Negotiations Bulletin team is here and setting up now, and you can follow their daily reports at http://www.iisd.ca/ramsar/cop9/. [07/11/05]


Malaysia names mangrove Ramsar site. The Secretariat is delighted to announce that Malaysia has designated Sarawak's Kuching Wetlands National Park (6,610 hectares, 01°41'N 110°14'E) for the List of Wetlands of International Importance, effective 8 November 2005. The site is a saline mangrove system with flora comprising predominantly the genera Rhizophora, Avicennia and Sonneratia, and it harbours such noteworthy species as Estuarine Crocodile Crocodylus porosus, Proboscis Monkey Nasalis larvatus (endemic to Borneo and listed as 'Endangered', IUCN Red List), Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus ('Vulnerable'), and Griffith's Silver Leaf Monkey Trachypithecus villosus. The site has value as a breeding and nursery ground for fish and prawn species - 43 families of fishes and 11 species of prawns have been recorded, many of which are commercially important. Its proximity to the city of Kuching, the Damai resort complex, and two other national parks renders it of high potential value for tourism, education and recreation. The area is historically important: there was a Chinese settlement there probably as early as the 1st century AD, and early Malay, Hindu and Buddhist relics from the 9th century AD have been excavated at Santubong Village. The discovery of gold made the area an important trading and iron mining centre from the 7th to 13th centuries; some enigmatic rock carvings of human figures remain from this period. In the 15th century, Santubong was the site of the original Brunei Malay capital of Sarawak. [02/11/05]


El Salvador names its second Ramsar site. El Salvador has designated Complejo Bahía de Jiquilisco (63,500 hectares, 13°13'N 088°32'W) as of 31 October 2005. The Jiquilisco Bay Complex constitutes the largest extension of brackish water and saltwater forest in El Salvador, including numerous estuaries and canals, sand dunes and beaches, various isles of different sizes, a freshwater lagoon complex and seasonally saturated forests connected to the mangroves, of which at least 6 types are present. The site constitutes the habitat of the large majority of coastal waterbirds in the country and nesting site of species such as Rynchops níger, Sterna antillarum, Charadrius wilsonia and Haematopus palliatus. The surrounding beaches are also nesting sites for the green turtle (Chelonia agassizi), Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivaceae) and leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriaceae), all of them threatened due to the overexploitation of their eggs. The site performs a very important function in the prevention of natural catastrophes by stabilizing the soil and preventing erosion. The most important economic activities involve fishing, shellfish extraction, aquiculture, salt extraction, cattle ranching and coconut plantations. There is some tourism in the area. [02/11/05]


Côte d'Ivoire designates five new coastal Ramsar sites. The Ramsar Secretariat is pleased to announce that Côte d'Ivoire has just designated five new sites for the List of Wetlands of International Importance, effective as of 18 October 2005: Complexe Sassandra-Dagbego, Fresco, Grand Bassam, Iles Ehotilé-Essouman, and N'Ganda N'Ganda. This significant achievement has been made possible with funds from the Swiss government, under the Swiss Grant for Africa programme, and with the support of Ramsar. The country's six sites now add up to an area of 127,344 hectares and include a large extent of mangroves, a wetland type which has been identified as being under-represented in the Ramsar List and which should be prioritized in the designation process. Ramsar's Lucia Scodanibbio provides further details, along with brief site descriptions and a few photos, right here. [01/11/05]


The UK names Channel Islands Ramsar site. The Secretariat is pleased to announce that the United Kingdom has designated Alderney West Coast and the Burhou Islands (15,629 hectares, 49°43'N 002°15'W) as its 163rd Ramsar site. As summarized by Dorothea August from the RIS, the site comprises the western coast of Alderney and adjacent shallow waters and islets in the strongly tidal, high-energy system of the northern Channel Islands. It includes diverse and inter-related ecosystems, such as sandy beaches with shingle banks, marine subtidal aquatic beds, rockpools, sandbars, and pebble beach and rocky marine shores, including sea cliff and rocky offshore islands. The rocky islets are a very important bird breeding place. A large nesting population of northern gannets are established on the Garden Rocks and Ortac with about 11,900 individuals. It also provides habitat for a seal colony to the north of Burhou Island and some fish and shellfish species such as e.g. lobsters, bass and plaice. The site hosts about 100 species of seaweeds, which play a very important role in supporting all the marine fauna and thus the large nesting bird population. A Land Use Plan protects the terrestrial part of the area within the site, including intertidal rock formations. Besides commercial and non-commercial fishing, tourism is the main activity: there is a visitor centre which provides both educational measures for children and information materials for the general public. Common visitor activities are birdwatching, walking and rockpooling over the summer months. [01/11/05]


Poland designates five new Wetlands of International Importance. The Secretariat is pleased to announce that the Government of Poland has designated five new Ramsar sites, including some with strong mire values, some with extraordinary cultural heritage, and two with potential for identification as collaborative transboundary Ramsar sites, with Ukraine and the Czech Republic respectively. Poland now has 13 Ramsar sites covering a surface area of 125,760 hectares. Ramsar's Dorothea August has prepared brief site descriptions based upon the RISs submitted by the Polish authorities, and some extraordinary photographs have been contributed by the respective National Park authorities. See it all here. [31/10/05]


Cape Verde joins the Convention. The Secretariat is very pleased to announce that UNESCO has informed us that on 18 July 2005 Cape Verde completed the procedure for its accession to the Convention on Wetlands, and that therefore the Convention as amended by the Protocol of 1982 will enter into force for Cape Verde on 18 November 2005. The new Party has named three sites for the List of Wetlands of International Importance - Lagoa de Rabil, Curral Velho, and Lagoa de Pedra Badejo - but information about these sites has not yet been received.

The Wetlands International West Africa Office and INIDA provided valuable assistance in the preparation of the sites' RIS and map. Cape Verde has received assistance from the Ramsar Swiss Grant for Africa to designate more Ramsar sites, prepare a media campaign on wetlands, and raise the awareness of paliamentarians regarding wetlands issues in the island. Cape Verde is welcome as the 147th Party to the Ramsar Convention. [29/10/05]


Belize adds part of transboundary wetland. The Government of Belize has added its second wetland site to the Ramsar List, as of 19 October 2005: Sarstoon Temash National Park (16,955 hectares, 15°58'N 089°00'W) is a complex of several different terrestrial ecosystem types located in Toledo district on the southern frontier with Guatemala, bisected by two large rivers, one of which forms the international border across which lies Sarstun, hopefully a future Ramsar site. Seasonally and permanently flooded forests predominate, with some 1,100 hectares of lowland sphagnum moss bog unique to the region, a saline/brackish inland lagoon, and 9,600 ha of saline swamps, with the country's most undisturbed and largest stand of red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) and its only stands of Comfra Palm (Manicaria saccifera). Several threatened and vulnerable species are supported, such as Black Howler Monkey, the Hickatee Turtle, the tapir Tapirus bairdii, the West Indian Manatee, and Morelett's Crocodile. The buffer zone of the park is home to the indigenous Kekchi Maya and Garifuna people, both of which attach high cultural importance to parts of the site. Stands of mahogany, cedar, and rosewood are targets for illegal crossborder logging efforts. The Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) is active in research and management planning for the site and has a co-management agreement with the government. Belize now has two Ramsar sites totaling 23,592 hectares. [27/10/05]


Montenegro and Albania cooperate on Lake Skadar.Lake Skadar soon a transboundary Ramsar Site.Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic of Montenegro and Prime Minister Sali Berisha of Albania opened on 18 October 2005 an international conference on the theme "Lake Skadar international designations for territorial development" in the new National Park offices situated at the lake shores next to Vranjina fishing village. The meeting was organized by the "Dinaric Arc Initiative", a framework of collaboration between the relevant offices of UNESCO, WWF, IUCN, UNDP and the Council of Europe. The meeting's main objective was to discuss with all major stakeholders the future development scenarios of the transboundary territory of Skadar lake and its catchment basin, a unique wetland in the karst landscape of southeastern Europe, boasting an extraordinary natural and cultural heritage. Tobias Salathé's report of the meeting, with some stunning photographs of the lake, is available here. [27/10/05]


Finland names 38 new Ramsar sites and two major extensions. The Ramsar Secretariat has the pleasure to announce that Finland has designated 38 new Ramsar sites throughout the country, totaling 606,345 hectares in surface area, with nine sites in each of Southern and Western Finland, five in Eastern Finland, eight in the middle province of Oulu and finally eight new sites in the most northern region of Lapland, which are in some cases transnational wetlands with Russia, Sweden or Norway. At the same time, the information on a further eleven Ramsar sites already designated in 1974 (Ramsar sites numbers 2 through 12) has been thoroughly updated, and two of those existing Ramsar sites have been significantly extended in area. The total area of the 49 Ramsar sites in Finland now amounts to 799,518 hectares and covers besides river, estuary and coastal areas very large extensions of peatlands, which are identified as being under-represented in the List of Wetlands of International Importance. Ramsar's Dorothea August summarizes these new additions to the List and provides brief descriptions of all of them, right here. [26/10/05]

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