The Ramsar Bulletin Board, 3 March 2000

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The UK designates its 150th Ramsar site. On World Wetlands Day, Minister Chris Mullin announced the designation of "Northumbria Coast" (1108 hectares) as his country's 150th site (see the press release). Also named an EC Habitats Directive SPA and an SSSI, the site comprises several discrete sections of rocky foreshore between Spittal, in the north of Northumberland, and an area just south of Blackhall Rocks in County Durham. These stretches of coast support internationally important numbers of purple sandpiper (Calidris maritima) and turnstone (Arenaria interpres, 1739 individuals, 2.6 % of the Eastern Atlantic Flyway population). The Ramsar site also includes an area of sandy beach which supports a nationally important breeding colony of little tern and parts of three artificial piers which form important roost sites for purple sandpiper. The 96% of the site composed of Wetland Type D (rocky marine shore) includes cliffs, crags/ledges, intertidal rock, open coast (including bay), and pools and assists in shoreline stabilization, dissipation of erosive forces, and sediment trapping. Little terns are vulnerable to disturbance by tourists in the summer causing reduced breeding success, and the National Trust employs wardens in summer to protect the little tern colony. A range of recreational activities takes place along the coast, including walking, camping, sea angling, birdwatching, and water sports (water skiing, sailing, windsurfing and canoeing). Birdwatching is particularly popular at Druridge Bay. In addition to many day trippers who come to the site, a sizeable population of summer visitors stay in caravan parks and other accommodation along the coast. This counts as Ramsar site no. 1019. [17/2/00]

Brief report on Ramsar issues at the CBD's SBSTTA5 meeting. The CBD's 5th SBSTTA (31 January to 4 February 2000) welcomed the growing and evolving partnership and cooperation with the Ramsar Convention. The products of the meeting, once available, will mention this partnership in the recommendations from the meeting relating to the inland waters, marine/coastal, and forest biodiversity programmes of work, as well as the cross-cutting theme of alien invasive species. Significantly, the meeting gave its overwhelming endorsement for the 2nd Joint Work Plan (JWP) between CBD and Ramsar which was developed collaboratively between the secretariats and the Chairs of CBD's SBSTTA and Ramsar's STRP, the respective subsidiary advisory bodies. The meeting also supported a new format for National Reports under the CBD - one that is very similar to that employed by Ramsar for its COP7 - which, if it is accepted by CBD COP5, should assist with efforts to harmonize national reporting in the future. Here's a brief report on this important meeting. [16/2/00]

Benin becomes the 119th Contracting Party. The Ramsar Bureau is pleased to announce that on 24 January 2000, Benin completed the formalities for joining the Convention on Wetlands, as amended by the Paris Protocol of 1982, and the Convention will come into force for Benin on 24 May 2000. Benin has designated two sites as its first Wetlands of International Importance: Basse Vallée du Couffo, Lagune Côtiere, Chenal Aho, Lac Ahémé (47,500 hectares) and Basse Vallée de l'Ouémé, Lagune de Porto-Novo, Lac Nokoué (91,600 hectares). More details are available here. [9/2/00]

Islamic Republic of Iran names its 20th Ramsar site. The Ramsar Bureau is pleased to announce the designation of a new Wetland of International Importance in the Islamic Republic of Iran, as of  29 December 1999. Sheedvar Island (870 ha, 26°48'N, 053°24'E) is a small sandy and rocky offshore island surrounded by excellent coral reefs in the north central Persian Gulf, extremely important for breeding marine turtles (Chelonidae) and some species of waterbirds, including a breeding colony of terns (Sterna spp) and other waterbirds in internationally important numbers. The flat area within sparsely-vegetated sand dunes is densely clad with halophytic shrubs (Atriplex sp) up to 60cm high. Abundance of a small poisonous snake has led to the island's alternative name "Maru" (Snake Island). There are no springs or surface water on the island and rainfall is very low, and the island is uninhabited by humans and owned by the government. Uncontrolled egg collection by humans was a serious problem in the 1970s but has diminished to manageable proportions. Department of the Environment personnel have been stationed on the island during the breeding season. [9/2/00]

Transboundary "Prespa Park" created in innovative diplomacy. Delmar Blasco, the Secretary General, celebrated World Wetlands Day, 2 February, by participating in ceremonies near Prespa Lake that were attended by the Prime Ministers of Albania, Greece, and the FYR of Macedonia, their excellencies Ilir Meta, Costas Simitis, and Ljubco Georgievski respectively. The purpose of the trilateral meeting was jointly to declare the "Prespa Park" on World Wetlands Day, a new protected area including parts of all three countries.

In his speech to the participants, Mr Blasco said that he considered the present gathering probably the most significant of all the many World Wetlands Day celebrations around the world, because the heads of three of the Convention’s Contracting Parties have come together to declare their resolution to join forces across the borders of their sovereign nations to establish a protected area that should provide great benefits for the local people and at the same time should contribute to conserving the biodiversity of the planet. He noted that this ceremony represented only the beginning of a process that will require political commitment, significant investment, and a lot of work in research, innovative development projects, and training. He congratulated the three governments warmly for their initiative. Here is the Prime Ministers' Declaration on the Creation of the Prespa Park. Plus all the speechs. [5/2/00] See also Environmental News Service .

Yesterday was World Wetlands Day. In addition to the impressive plans outlined for countries all round the world (see them here), the Bureau has also been notified that both India and the United Kingdom have seized the occasion to set in motion the designation process for new Wetlands of International Importance.  [3/2/00]

Guatemala weighs in with Punta de Manabique. Just in time for World Wetlands Day, Guatemala has designated its fourth Ramsar site [the Convention's 1016th], this one in the Municipality of Puerto Barrios in the Izabal Department, which is located in the Honduran Gulf on the Caribbean coast. The new site, Punta de Manabique, covers a total of 132,900 hectares, of which 44,900 ha are terrestrial, 22,000 ha are inland waters, and 66,000 ha are coastal waters. Here's a brief description in English and Español by Margarita Astrálaga of the Ramsar Bureau. [2/2/00]

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