United Kingdom names three Ramsar sites for World Wetlands Day

30/03/2005

Three offshore Ramsar sites in the Channel Islands

The United Kingdom's Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (defra) has informed the Secretariat of its designation of three new Ramsar sites effective World Wetlands Day, 2 February 2005, all of them reef and shoal systems off-shore from the Channel Island of Jersey. With huge tidal ranges in the area of the Golfe de St-Malo along the northwestern coast of France, all three sites present an array of reef and intertidal habitat types. All three are presently proposed sites of special interest under the Planning (Jersey) Law 1964. The UK now has 162 Wetlands of International Importance, nearly 100 more than Australia with 64. Our new colleague, Assistant Advisor for Europe Dorothea August, has prepared brief site descriptions based upon the Ramsar Information Sheets submitted with the designations.

Les Écréhous & Les Dirouilles, Jersey (5,459 hectares, 49°18'N 001°58'W) consists of two reefs which form an extensive shoal area on the east of Jersey. At high tide only a group of rocky heads and an islet, Le Maitre Isle, are uncovered -- at low tide various habitats are exposed, including reefs, boulder fields, sandy shores and shingle banks. The tidal range can exceed 12 meters. The area is fed clean well-oxygenated water, and this factor, together with the range of habitats and the site's biogeographical position, supports a wide range of rich and diverse biotopes and some unusual species assemblages. The flora and fauna is characterised by limit-of-range species at the northern and southern margins of their distributions. These areas are important nursery zones for shore and shallow sublittoral fish communities. A small population of grey seals Halichoerus grypus and one of the largest breeding populations of bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the British Isles are recorded in the area. Fishing within the site is of great cultural, social and traditional importance to the population of Jersey. Ramsar site no. 1455.

Les Minquiers, Jersey (9,575 ha, 48°58'N 002°07'W) is an extensive shoal area lying 34 kilometres due south from Saint Helier on Jersey. At high tide only rocky heads and a small supralittoral area are exposed. At low tide various habitats are uncovered exposed, including reefs, boulder fields, sandy shores and shingle banks. The areas of shallow water and the large number of intertidal channels and pools within the site provide habitat for many species of fish, sponge and ascidian communities. Likewise the rich infaunal communities of the mud and sand flats are important for their range of mollusc and worm species. The combination of biogeographic location, the strong tidal streams, a wide variety of wave energy conditions and physical features provide ideal conditions for the support of a wide diversity of organisms and enhance biodisparity. Different locations within the site support a number of species of wintering and passage waders and wildfowl with feeding and roosting locations. Fishing within the site is of great cultural, social and traditional importance to the population of Jersey. Ramsar site no. 1456.

Les Pierres de Lecq (the Paternosters), Jersey (512 ha, 49°18'N 002°12'W) is an extensive reef uncovered at low tide, lying off the northwest coast of Jersey - with one of the largest tidal ranges in the world, sometimes exceeding 12 metres, only four heads are exposed at high tide. Due to the wide range of substrata and wave exposure, the site has a diverse range of habitats, communities, and species. The topographical diversity of biogeographic location, oceanographic circulation, and physical features of the site provide conditions favouring recruitment of planktonic larvae, and the large number of intertidal rocky platforms and diverse algal assemblages are important to many invertebrate and vertebrate organisms, providing shelter, protection and food for both larval and adult stages. These areas are important nursery zones for shore and shallow sublittoral fish communities. The overlap between the cold and warm temperate marine biogeographical regions promotes increased species richness. Among the most important fish species are Acipenser sturgo, Hippocampus hippocampus, and Salmo salar. The Jersey Island Plan 2003 includes a presumption against most kinds of development and ensures the sustainable use of the marine environment. Ramsar site no. 1457.

Jersey's four Ramsar sites are shown in pink polygons -- the small square site at the top left is Les Pierres de Lecq, and the larger area of reefs to the right, off the northeast coast of Jersey, is Les Écréhous & Les Dirouilles. Les Minquiers is the area of shoals 34km south of the main island. The Ramsar area on the main island is the South East Coast of Jersey Ramsar site, designated in November 2000.

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