How to mobilize the partners around Ramsar Sites?
After a first successful seminar in Evian in October 2009 (see our report here), a second seminar involving French Ramsar Site managers took place on 1-2 December 2010 on Ré Island on the French Atlantic coast. Close to 120 site managers, educators, technical experts, administrators, and locally and regionally elected people came together to discuss how best to use the tools of the Ramsar Convention for local development under the theme “how to mobilize the partners around Ramsar Sites?”. The meeting was organised by the Ligue pour la protection des oiseaux (LPO), BirdLife International’s French national partner, with the Municipalities of Ré Island and the Forum for the Atlantic Marshes, one of France’s four thematic centres to compile and disseminate wetland conservation and management know-how, and with additional support from the Evian mineral waters company.
Lionel Quillet, the president of the Ré Island Municipalities, presented their integrated approach for sustainable development, focusing on fisheries, salt harvesting, agriculture and tourism, the island being one of the major tourist attractions in France. He enthusiastically presented the new Ramsar Site discovery paths which the participants were able to experience after the seminar. He told the audience that the entire Ramsar Site area of “Fiers d’Ars”, including the lower-lying parts of the nearby villages, was inundated by last winter’s storm Xynthia. However, thanks to this wetland’s buffer zone, damages to human lives and properties were much less important than on the nearby low-lying coastal mainland, where the local land-use plans had ignored some basic ecological facts about wetland ecosystem services.
In three groups, the participants discussed how to make better use of the Ramsar Site distinction and how to communicate this widely, how to develop sustainable tourist activities at Ramsar Sites, and how best to increase the knowledge and understanding of Ramsar Site ecosystems through regular monitoring and targeted research. The French National Ramsar Focal Point, Emmanuel Thiry of the Ministry of Ecology, recalled the national action plan and the interministerial note regarding the implementation of the Ramsar Convention in France, notably through the designation of additional sites to the Ramsar List and the regular update of information on existing Ramsar Sites.
The participants decided to create a specific national association of Ramsar Site managers, in order to work towards a better visibility and public understanding of the successful application of specific Ramsar tools and guidelines as a help for sustainable development. Comparisons were made with recent experiences of a similar association for the promotion of World Heritage Convention properties in France. The seminar created a common feeling that the specific Ramsar conservation tools merit clearer understanding, dissemination and appropriation by the different stakeholders and by our societies at large around the designated Sites. The participants felt that such national seminars should henceforth become an annual event and happily accepted the invitation from the Ramsar Site managers of the Camargue to host the next meeting in 2011, also to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Convention, at the place where in 1962 the international wetland conference MAR, organised by Luc Hoffmann, triggered the subsequent preparation of the Convention. Watch this space for new ideas and contributions from French Ramsar Site managers and animators.
Report by Tobias Salathé