BlackSeaWet: Ramsar’s Regional Initiative for Black and Azov Seas coastal wetlands

After a first meeting of the newly established management body of this Ramsar Regional Initiative held in February this year (see our report here), the governing group of this cooperation programme met again on 5-7 October 2010 in Tulcea, Romania, hosted by the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority. The representatives of the countries bordering the Black and Azov Seas provided a short update on the activities by their national working groups and urged the absent countries to catch up and to establish rapidly national work programmes. They agreed on a common reporting procedure, had a brainstorming session on priorities to be addressed and on CEPA activities to be undertaken at regional, national and local scale. Three national focal points, from Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, were able to contribute what they just learnt at the regional Ramsar CEPA training workshop delivered in Iran in August 2010.

While much still needs to be done, the meeting received expressions of future support by organisations such as the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) and the Black Sea Commission. Nejib Benessaiah, the coordinator of Ramsar’s long standing Mediterranean Wetland Initiative ( shared their experience to development a regional cooperation mechanism and recalled the innovative approach pursued by the Mediterranean Wetlands Observatory ( to monitor wetland status and development. The meeting adopted a logo for the regional cooperation and a website structure ( that allows the BlackSeaWet focal points in each country to upload latest news in their national language, as well as in English.

Members of the BlackSeaWet Management Body board the research and monitoring vessel of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority for a tour in the northwestern part of the Danube Delta.Willows at the edge of the naturally flooded Sireasa agricultural polder in the Danube Delta.

The management body concluded that BlackSeaWet was to organize a thematic seminar in autumn 2011 to take stock of the state of affairs of coastal wetland conservation around the Black and Azov Seas, and that a specific funding proposal should be prepared to this end, hopefully with continued support by Wetlands International, specially represented at the meeting by their strategic adviser Bart Fokkens. In 2010, the BlackSeaWet regional initiative received operational start-up funding from the Ramsar core budget and the Ramsar-Danone Fund for Water. This will soon have to be replaced by locally generated funds.

Natural shores of the River Don, visited by the participants in the seminar on integrated water management of the Azov Sea.

The BlackSeaWet management body concluded that it was important to include in their work programme the numerous coastal wetlands around the Azov Sea, linked with the Black Sea through the Kerch straits. And the participants learnt about the recently created Azov Center for Watershed Cooperation (, aiming to facilitate cooperation over water-related issues in the Azov Sea watershed, shared between Russia and Ukraine. Viktor Lagutov, teaching at the Central European University in Budapest, recently provided the Azov Center with the means to host an “advanced study institute” on the “watershed approach to environmental security to foster integrated water management in the Azov Sea basin”, held on 6-12 September 2010, with financial support by NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme. The Ramsar Secretariat presented to this seminar in Rostov-on-the-Don the tools provided by the Convention to safeguard ecosystem services in the watershed. And now, we all hope that the Azov Center can help to close the current gap of a Russian participation in the BlackSeaWet initiative.

Report by Tobias Salathé, Senior Advisor for Europe, Ramsar Secretariat

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