New wetland centre at the Liminganlahti Bay Ramsar Site, Finland

30/04/2012

New wetland centre at the Liminganlahti Bay Ramsar Site, Finland

First declared a Ramsar Site in 2004, this 12,275-hectare bay is the perfect site for a state-of-the-art wetland centre. It is a bird watchers paradise but also a place of beauty for those who simply enjoy open, natural spaces, with stunning views across the bay.

The opening of the new centre took place on the 27th April with brief speeches from a range of organizations involved in the development of the Bay, each delivering a particular perspective of the new centre and the hopes for its long-term success locally, nationally and internationally. Speakers included:

Helena Tornberg, Liminka Municipality
Arto Ahokumpu, Regional Director, Metsähallitus (the Ramsar National Focal Point)
Katariina Poskiparts, Secretary of State, Ministry of Environment (the Ramsar Administrative Authority)
Sandra Hails, Ramsar Convention Secretariat
Jari Luukkonen, WWF Finland
Jyrki Kangas, Director, Metsähallitus

The centre is focused on the Liminganlahti Ramsar Site and the changing “eight seasons of birds” throughout the year. With hands-on exhibits, wonderful photographs and illustrations, a fascinating look at traditional fishing activities as well as gift shop and restaurant, there is every reason to believe that the centre will attract many visitors on a regular basis and will succeed in its aim of helping people to understand the value of wetlands and how they function.


View of the new Liminganlahti Wetland Centre taken from
the viewing platform



Reconstruction of a fisherman's cottage in the centre


Part of the 'Ramsar' exhibition area

As part of the celebration, on the 28th April an international photo exhibition took place at the centre attracting 2,500 enthusiasts, from the very young to the very old, to the centre throughout the day. Various nationally and internationally well-known photographers spoke throughout the day to a packed auditorium for each presentation as each audience was treated to spectacular images of birds as well as firsthand stories from the photographers of the challenges of taking the pictures as well as insights into the lives of their subjects.


The viewing platform and walkway


A family enjoying the more sheltered hide underneath
the viewing platform

Visitor centres are not new to Liminganlahti Bay: the first modest centre was built and run by WWF in 1988 and this was replaced in 1997with support from the Liminka Municipality and the Regional Environment Agency, this later development remaining part of the current  complex. What is different this time? The drive for this new centre has come from the national level, through Metsahallitus Natural Heritage Services within the Ministry of Environment, working in collaboration with the Liminka Municipality, and together they have long-term plans for the development of the centre. It is also the first wetland centre located within a Ramsar Site that is focused entirely on wetlands and the Ramsar Convention.

The new partnership also includes Finnature, an NGO that will organize birdwatching trips and courses, including photography, renting of the hides for photographers and wildlife film-makers, leaving the local municipality to oversee the cafeteria/restaurant and the management of rooms for overnight stays which they have rented out to the private sector, while Metsähallitus will take responsibility for the new exhibition area, auditorium and management offices, and the development of new education initiatives about and for wetlands. This partnership brings together these very different areas of expertise to ensure broad coverage of the interests and needs of day visitors as well as those wishing to stay longer. Their overall aim? To deliver basic and specialist information about the area in a pleasant environment, and, through various initiatives, to encourage broad support for the management of wetlands. An additional aim is to increase awareness of all visitors about sustainable lifestyles and individual responsibilities.

An important future role of the centre will be the coordination of communication among wetland specialists within both Finland and through the  Nordic Baltic Wetlands Ramsar Regional Initiative to share their considerable expertise in wetland restoration and management using email, newsletters, seminars and training workshops at the centre. The intention is to take this further in the longer term, forging stronger working relationships with landowner and hunting associations among others – key target groups that can be friend or foe to the conservation and management of wetlands. In the Liminganlahti Ramsar Site a great deal of time and effort has already been invested in developing and sustaining such relationships with benefits for the wetlands and their wildlife – and of course in the long run for visitors.

Thus, a successful opening and what looks like a long-term future for the Liminganlahti Ramsar Site and wetland centre. Congratulations to the developers of the centre and the organizers of the opening.

Visit their web site at http://www.liminganlahti.fi/

Report by  Sandra Hails, Ramsar Secretariat; photos by Sandra Hails and Sari Airas

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