The Ramsar Bulletin Board, 2 February 2005

Tanzania designates fascinating coastal complex. The Secretariat is extremely pleased to announce that the United Republic of Tanzania has named its fourth Wetland of International Importance, entitled Rufiji-Mafia-Kilwa Marine Ramsar site (08°08'S 039°38'E), a complex of coastal and marine habitats covering 596,908 hectares, comprising the delta of the Rufiji River; the Mafia Island about 25km offshore and surrounding smaller islands, sandbars, and coral reefs; the Songo-Songo Archipelago to the south; and adjacent waters, i.e. the Mafia Channel and waters between Mafia and Songo-Songo. A large part is composed of mangrove forests (an estimated 55,000 ha) as well as extensive intertidal flats, seagrass beds, and sandbars, all thought to be ecologically interlinked with the flow of the river. Songo-Songo has a highly diverse and extensive coral assemblage with records of 49 genera of hard and 12 genera of soft corals. Five species of globally threatened marine turtles have been recorded, including Green Turtle and Hawksbill, as well as a small population of Dugong dugong. A count in the delta alone in 2001 recorded 40,160 waterbirds of 62 species at a minimum. The delta's artisanal fishery of about 7,000 fishermen produces about 4,500 tonnes of finfish per annum, as well as prawns, and thousands of families in Songo-Songo and on Mafia similarly make their livings from fishing. Fishing and extraction of other coastal and mangrove resources, as well as cultivation (especially rice), seaweed farming, and tourism are the major activities within the site. [28/01/05]

Swiss Grant for Africa: approval for projects in six African countries. The Secretary General has signed grant agreements with the Convention's Administrative Authorities in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, and Liberia for the implementation of several COP8 Resolutions in those countries. The grants to Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire will serve for the: i) designation of new Ramsar sites, ii) preparation of National Wetlands Policy outlines, iii) draft report of their civil wars' impacts on their wetlands and, iv) strengthening of the Ramsar focal points' operational capacities. Liberia, which does not yet have a National Wetlands Committee, will establish one; in Burkina Faso, where a Ramsar National Committee has just been created, the government intends to do designate nine new Ramsar sites, update the three Ramsar sites' RISs, and strengthen the Ramsar focal point's capacities. In addition, Cameroon and Cape Verde have also been granted Ramsar/Swiss assistance to help them prepare for accession to the Convention, and Gabon has a grant to help upgrade the data on their Ramsar sites and provide a training session for selected members of parliament. Gabon have also been granted Ramsar/Swiss Funds assistance for similar activities. The total amount disbursed is 110,500 Swiss francs for one year's duration, and the results will be presented during Ramsar COP9 in Kampala. -- Abou Bamba, Ramsar. [More info on the Swiss Grant for Africa.] [27/01/05]

China names nine new Ramsar sites for World Wetlands Day. The Secretariat is delighted to announce that the Government of the People's Republic of China has designated nine new Wetlands of International Importance, with a surface area of nearly 400,000 hectares. One of them, Shuangtai Estuary on the Liao River in northeastern China, makes up part of what has been called "the world's largest reed bed". The other eight new Ramsar sites are all in Qinghai and Yunnan Provinces and the Tibet Autonomous Region and are all high-altitude marshes and lakes, one as high as 6,500 meters asl, among the headwaters of the Yangtze, Yellow, and Yalu Tsangpo / Brahmaputra Rivers. All of these have very important hydrological functions, both locally and downstream, and all are extremely valuable sites for migratory birds, including the endangered Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis. Because of the relative isolation of the sites, some of them have high levels of endemism, particularly with fish species, and they are vital sources of livelihood for the populations nearby. These new mountain designations have been made as part of China's efforts in the "Wetland Conservation and Wise Use in the Himalayan High Mountains" initiative and have been assisted by support from WWF China and WWF's Global Freshwater Programme.

Brief descriptions of the nine new sites, drawn from the Ramsar Information Sheets submitted with the designations, have been put together with assistance from Ramsar's Ms Shahzia M. Khan.[26/01/05]

Ramsar Tsunami Reference Group.As part of the global response to the disaster, the Ramsar Convention Secretariat has asked Wetlands International to work with Ramsar International Organisation Partners (IOPs) to coordinate efforts to bring together scientifically sound advice on wetlands in the region in order to assist governments in choosing the most effective response measures. The Ramsar Tsunami Reference Group has been established involving Wetlands International, WWF, IUCN, BirdLife International and the International Water Management Institute to combine resources, share information and produce timely advice as and when it is needed. The highest and immediate priority of this group is to coordinate rapid assessment of the affected areas with involvement and assistance of all remote sensing specialists, interested agencies and organisations.  [20/01/05]

European Regional Meeting report and photos ready. The "5th European Regional Meeting on the implementation and effectiveness of the Ramsar Convention" was held in Yerevan, Armenia, 4-8 December 2004, and was attended by 109 participants, representing 35 Contracting Parties in the European Region, four intergovernmental organisations, three of Ramsar's international organisation partners, several non-governmental organisations plus a number of invited experts. The aims of the Meeting, its detailed programme and annotated agenda, the participants list and texts of most of the presentations delivered during the plenary sessions and workshops are available on the Ramsar Convention Web site here. And now, the Report of the meeting can be seen in all its glory, here, and a number of poignant photographs as well, here. [12/01/04]

Small Grants Fund -- call for project proposals. The Ramsar Small Grants Fund was established by Ramsar COP4 in 1990 as a mechanism to assist developing countries and those with economies in transition in implementing the Convention and to enable the conservation and wise use of wetland resources - since that time, it has provided funding and co-funding, up to 40,000 Swiss francs (about US$ 34,000) per project, for something like 175 projects totaling about 7 million francs. Projects for the 2004 cycle will be selected by the Standing Committee's Subgroup on Finance in March 2005. The call for proposals is now being made for the 2005 cycle, with a deadline of 30 June 2005 for application and with a decision to be made by the Standing Committee around the end of the year. Here is the text of the call for proposals, and the "operational guidelines" for the SGF can be found here in Word and PDF format. [11/01/04]

Ramsar and Partners prepare advice on post-tsunami rehabilitation. "Wetlands have an important role to play in ensuring a sustainable future for people in the areas of South and Southeast Asia, devastated by the recent tsunami events. For example, the recovery and rehabilitation of mangroves and linked coastal and marine habitats will be vital to increase coastal protection and support coastal fisheries. Safeguarding other wetland systems in the region will also be important to secure sufficient freshwater supplies. . . . As part of the global response, the Ramsar Convention Secretariat has asked Wetlands International to coordinate efforts to bring together scientifically sound advice on wetlands in the region to assist governments in establishing the most effective response measures. A joint effort will be established with Ramsar's International Organisation Partners and other relevant research, environmental and aid organisations to combine resources, share information and produce timely advice as and when it is needed." Here is Ramsar Secretary General Peter Bridgewater's message on the Ramsar response to the recent coastal catastrophe. [09/01/05]

Switzerland updates data and extends one Ramsar site. Switzerland has extended the Kaltbrunner Riet Ramsar site by seven hectares to include all the marsh and its buffer zone within the designated area and has updated Ramsar Information Sheets and maps for seven of its eight designated Wetlands of International Importance with excellent quality information. (In Resolution VI.13 (1996), the Parties committed themselves to updating the data provided for their Ramsar sites at least every six years.) Mr Meinrad Küttel, head of the Administrative Authority for Switzerland, notified that the remaining update for the Les Grangettes Ramsar site will be done after its extension, which is in process. [06/01/05]

Burkina Faso creates National Ramsar Committee. In furtherance of Recommendation 5.7 of Ramsar COP5, held June 1993 in Kushiro, Japan, the government of Burkina Faso has just established its Ramsar National Committee, "to provide a focus at national level for implementation of the Convention" in the words of the Recommendation. By the ministerial joint decree no. 2004-25/MECVF/MAHRH/MRA/MESSRS, dated the 16th of September 2004, the Ministries of Environment, Water and Agriculture, Higher Education and Scientific Research, and Animal Resources have nominated the new members of the Ramsar National Committee, which includes researchers, university professors, government organizations, and NGO representatives with different qualifications in the field of wetland management. The creation of the committee, a model of the kind of broad-based cooperative body envisaged by the COP in Recommentation 5.7, is the result of close fruitful consultations between the Ramsar Secretariat and the Ministry of Environment of Burkina Faso. Here Ramsar's Abou Bamba provides more detail, the text of the decree (in French), and some photos. [05/01/05]

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