Irish Ramsar Committee created
On 27 October 2010, the new Irish National Ramsar Committee held its constitutional meeting in Dublin. A significant development for this long-standing Contracting Party that presently has 45 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance, covering marine and coastal areas, sand dunes, saltmarshes, river headwaters and estuaries, lakes, reedbeds, swamps, peat bogs and karstic limestone areas.
|The Department of Engineering of Trinity College Dublin - where many novative wetland management ideas receive scientific support|
The Committee will assist Ireland in fulfilling its obligations and provide a mechanism for spreading Ramsar’s approach to wetland and water issues beyond the individuals and branches of government that are officially charged with its implementation. The Committee will focus on wetlands policy and on raising the profile of wetland ecosystems, in particular their value. It will provide a broader focus at national level for the implementation of the Convention and involve relevant government agencies, scientific and technical institutions, regional and local authorities, local communities, NGOs and the private sector. The Committee operates under the auspices of the national Sustainable Development Council “Comhar”. At the constitutional meeting, the members elected Ramsar’s CEPA focal point Ms Karin Dubsky of the Department of Engineering at Trinity College and the Coastwatch NGO, as its chairperson. Congratulations to Karin for this achievement and her continuing efforts for wetland awareness and conservation.
|Claire Ferry (RSPB, with map) and Karin Dubsky (chair of the Irish National Ramsar Committee) standing at the edge of the UK Ramsar Site Lough Foyle at high tide|
The meeting of the new Irish National Ramsar Committee gave Tobias Salathe from the Ramsar Secretariat the opportunity to meet briefly with different stakeholders around Lough Foyle, the major marine bay and estuary in the north of the island, shared between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. This major wetland area, besides its outstanding scenery, is particularly important for fisheries, including trout and salmon (also along the tributory rivers) and shellfish, such as the native flat oysters, introduced Gigas oysters, periwinkles and mussels. Tobias met with the directors of the inspiring Loughs Agency, a cross-border body, exercising a statutory remit for conservation, protection and development across the Foyle and Carlingford catchments.
|European flat oysters (Ostrea edulis) exposed at low tide on Lough Swilly, an important natural resource used by humans since ancient Roman times|
The Loughs Agency’s objectives for these river systems and sea areas include development of fisheries and aquaculture, conservation and protection of inland fisheries and sustainable development of marine tourism. He also met with professional fishermen at Moville and briefly visited the UK Ramsar Site Lough Foyle managed by RSPB, a member of BirdLife International who is one of Ramsar’s international organisation partners. At these occasions, opportunities to designate the entire marine bay and estuary, including the important upstream parts of therivers used for angling, ideally as a Transboundary Ramsar Site, were discussed.
|Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus) breeding in Iceland, here foraging on left overs in the fields next to Inch wildlife refuge, their autumn stop-over on the way to Scottish and English Ramsar Site wintering grounds|
Other encounters with local authorities, councillors, fishermen and conservation NGOs took place at Buncrana further west in County Donegal, to discuss the use of the Ramsar Convention tools and Site designation for the advancement of sustainable local development and long-term conservation of the natural resources of the large estuary Lough Swilly and the Inch Wildfowl Reserve. The estuary is an important stop-over place for migratory swans and geese breeding in Greenland, Iceland and Canada and other waterbirds. The brief exchanges created much local media interest and there is now hope to see the Ramsar tools supporting local development through the designation of new Ramsar Sites.
Photos and report by Tobias Salathe