The Ramsar Bulletin Board, 4 May 1998

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COP4 of the Convention on Biological Diversity gets under way. Opening statements begin today in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, for the 4th Conference of the Parties of the CBD, and between now and the 15th of May we'll bring you news of Ramsar's part in it.  The Secretary General, the Deputy Secretary General, and the Chairperson of the Standing Committee, Ms Louise Lakos of Hungary, are all there and eager to contribute to the formation of policy and actions concerning inland freshwater ecosystems. [4/5/98]

Asian Waterfowl Census is ready. The Asian Waterfowl Census 1994-1996: Results of the Coordinated Waterbird Census and an Overview of the Status of Wetlands in Asia, edited by Alvin Lopez and Taej Mundkur, has been published by Wetlands International, with financial support from the Ramsar Convention and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), and is available from Wetlands International - Asia Pacific in Kuala Lumpur. The AWC is a coordinated international scheme for the collection and dissemination of information on waterbirds and wetlands; it forms part of the International Waterfowl Census, a global effort coordinated by Wetlands International and conducted once a year, during January.  Some 1,994 sites were covered at least once, including 75 wetlands which proved to meet the Ramsar criteria though only six of those are presently on the Ramsar List.  The editors, in their executive summary, call for particular attention to these sites in future, in order to identify their true potential for Ramsar nomination under Criterion 3(a). [30/4/98]

Costa Rica designates Isla del Coco as its 7th site. The Government of Costa Rica has designated a new wetland of international importance: Isla del Coco National Park,  535 km off the coast from Puntarenas on the mainland, with a total surface of 99,623 hectares.  Details are available. [28/4/98]

WWF and IUCN Urge Governments to take Freshwater Related International Treaties Seriously.

NEW YORK -- The World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) and IUCN-The World Conservation Union today urged governments and international institutions at the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development meeting to be serious in implementing existing international treaties that relate to freshwater ecosystems.

Among the key treaties that relate significantly to fresh water are the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, 1971) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992).

"Governments must show leadership in implementing integrated national water policies if they are serious about averting a global freshwater crisis," said Dr. Claude Martin, Director General of WWF International. "Putting freshwater ecosystem conservation at the center of any action plan on freshwater is critical if freshwater resources are to be available for people on a sustainable basis."

"Protection of freshwater ecosystems is a win-win investment for people," said Dr. Ger Bergkamp, IUCN’s Freshwater Resources Coordinator.

IUCN and WWF believe that destruction and deterioration of freshwater ecosystems is leading to negative impacts on human health, living standards and livelihoods. An effective strategy at any scale - local, national, regional or international - must seek to maximize benefits for both people and ecosystems.

Ramsar visit to Iran. The Convention’s Secretary General, Mr Delmar Blasco, visited the Islamic Republic of Iran on 10-18 April 1998 at the invitation of Her Excellency Dr. M. Ebtecar, Vice President of the Republic and Head of the Department of the Environment, and dropped in on the seaside city of Ramsar. And he brought his camera.  Here's a tiny report, and here are the pix -- The SG standing next to the original sign at the Ramsar city limits!  The very same hotel in which the Convention was first adopted!   Whole wetlands full of invasive weeds!  And lots more! [22/4/98]

Draft map of the Contracting Parties. Courtesy of Scott Frazier's continuing campaign to make Ramsar data universally intelligible and even fun, here's a low-resolution preview of a draft map of Ramsar Contracting Parties around the world that he's been working on.   A little fuzzy round the edges in the interests of small file size, but you'll get the idea of the thing. [22/4/98]

Fires in Nariva Swamp. At the Nariva Swamp Ramsar site in Trinidad and Tobago, at present approximately 3,000 acres of marsh lands have been destroyed by bush fires, and these continue daily.  [19/4/98]

Ramsar helps promote ecosystems approach at CSD6.The UN Commission on Sustainable Development begins its 6th Session at UN Headquarters in New York on 20 April, and Ramsar has joined forces with the Convention on Biological Diversity and our partner organizations IUCN and WWF to urge the UN to recognize and adopt the "ecosystems approach" as a central element in its global freshwater strategy.  A panel discussion on "Freshwater Ecosystem Conservation: Water for People" will be hosted by WWF and IUCN on Tuesday, 21 April, for which the speakers will include Dr Calestous Juma (Executive Secretary of the CBD), Mr Delmar Blasco (Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention), Mr Colin Rees (World Bank), Dr Ger Bergkamp (IUCN), and a colleague from WWF Brazil to present a case study on the Pantanal/Hidrovía. To assist in promoting the ecosystem approach to CSD6, IUCN and WWF have prepared a recommendation paper with the title"Strategic Approaches to Freshwater Management", as well as a related background paper describing the "ecosystem approach" more fully. Both papers are reproduced here, and readers are also invited to refresh their memories about Ramsar's involvement in this issue by referring again to the Deputy Secretary General's interventions to the CSD's Intersessional Ad Hoc Working Group on 23 February and 24 February this year. [18 April 1998]

Update on training project at Dongzhaigang, China. Dongzhaigang is the best and perhaps largest remaining contiguous area of mature mangrove forest in China and is of primary importance for wintering and migrating waterbirds. A Ramsar Small Grants Fund project enabled staff of the Forestry Bureau of Hainan, Wetlands International, and the Bureau of Forestry in Beijing to come together in late March and early April 1998 as a working group to formulate a draft management plan for Dongzhaigang N.N.R. Here's an update by John Howes on the site and the progress of the work. [18/4/98]

Malaysia's National Biodiversity Policy. Lim Kooi Fong reports: The "ASEAN Review of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation (ARBEC)" is proud to present Malaysia's National Biodiversity Policy (NBP) for public viewing. As Malaysia is one of the 12 mega diversity countries of the world, many environmentally-conscious organizations and institutions will be interested to know what action plan the Malaysian government has in preserving its naturally rich and valuable resources. In conjunction with the NBP official declaration on Thursday, April 16 1998, ARBEC - with permission obtained from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, Malaysia - is hosting the global release of the policy for international access. [21/4/98]

Impact assessment workshop set for NZ. "Addressing Biodiversity and Impact Assessment" is a two-day workshop planned as part of the 18th IAIA [International Association of Impact Assessment] meeting, Christchurch, New Zealand (19-24 April 1998), organized by the IUCN Economic Services Unit: here's the announcement. The workshop advances the work that Dave Pritchard (RSPB) began when he presented an important paper to Ramsar's 6th Conference of the Parties in Brisbane (here's his Brisbane presentation), which resulted in the Contracting Parties requesting "the Standing Committee and the STRP, in collaboration with the Bureau and partner organizations, to examine existing EIA guidelines relevant to wetlands and, if necessary, to arrange for the drafting of Ramsar guidelines, as an aid to the wise use of wetlands, in a form suitable for adoption by the 7th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties" (Recommendation 6.2). The Ramsar Bureau supports the work of the IUCN workshop at IAIA as a further contribution to this effort. The NZ workshop report will be presented for the consideration of COP4 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Bratislava (May 1998).  [14/4/98]

Cooperation with the CBD highlighted. In response to the increasingly close cooperation between the Convention on Wetlands and the Convention on Biological Diversity, especially as the CBD's 4th Conference of the Parties (Bratislava, May 1998) draws closer, we have added a special index page to bring together all of the major documents and news.  Prominent among these papers you'll find the proposed Joint Work Plan (English, French, and Spanish versions) which is being distributed by the CBD secretariat as a COP4 Information Document.  Check this page frequently -- there's a button for it on the main Ramsar index page -- and keep up with developments as they occur. [9/4/98]

'Bad news from Ramsar sites' department. Greenwire (15 April) reported the following story on 15 April: "RAIN FLOODS WADING BIRDS OUT OF EVERGLADES. A recent federal bird count showed an 83% drop since last year in the number of herons, egrets, ibis and wood storks in the marshes north of Everglades National Park. Scientists blame the dwindling number of wading birds in part on high water levels resulting from this winter's El Nino-fueled rains. Although water levels are dropping, it may be too late to help the few remaining birds that remain there, according to biologists. Ironically, the problem has been compounded by efforts to save the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrows living in the Everglades. The Army Corps of Engineers has refused to drain the wading birds' habitat in order to protect a group of nesting sparrows." [16/4/98]

Ducks Unlimited reports on Ramsar-related activities. During the 1996 Ramsar Conference of the Parties in Brisbane, Australia, Ducks Unlimited pledged 3.1 million Swiss francs to be spent for habitat protection, restoration and enhancement, and wetland education and training programs at Ramsar sites, as well as support of National Ramsar Committees and proposed listings of new sites. An 8-page report just released summarizes activities for the period March 1996 to February 1997, totalling some SFR 3,028,714, and offers some interesting examples; it's available from Ducks Unlimited, and the text is reproduced here. [7/4/98]

Panama: New law will protect wetlands, water quality [from Greenwire, 3 April 1998]. "A new Panamanian law attempts to put protection of the country's fragile environment and vulnerable seafaring workers on an equal footing with promotion of ports and maritime industry," reports the Miami Herald. Yvette Ng de Jaen, administrator of Panama's new National Maritime Commission, speaking last week at the Law of The Sea conference at the University of Miami, said the new law allows the NMC to "establish a national authority that would regulate the destruction of wetlands and try to protect water quality." Jaen said previous wetlands and water quality decisions had been made by local officials with limited understandings of the larger impacts of their rulings. Meanwhile, the 50-mile Panama Canal stands the risk of being destroyed by deforestation and the loss of wetlands. Clearcutting of forests could cause silt to wash in from the mountainous isthmus and destroy the channel (Cyril Zaneski, Miami Herald, 4/2).

Eastern curlew checks in.  A year ago we reported on the The Far Eastern Curlew Satellite Tracking Project  along the East Asian Australasian Shorebird Reserve Network (SRN).  Taej Mundkur, Wetlands International - Asia Pacific, forwards a note from Maki Koyama with this introduction: "Dear colleagues, Attached is some very interesting news.   This project has gone on for two years as part of a Japanese-Australian collaborative government-supported programme under their bilateral agreement.  It has produced some very good results, identifying some staging areas and breeding areas."   The forwarded note reads: "Hi, all, One of the nine eastern curlews that had transmitters mounted for satellite tracking at Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia, at the end of January, was seen at the Yoshino Estuary, Japan, one of the two SRN sites in Japan, on 21 March.  The curlew was videotaped and the pictures were in today's local papers.  It took the bird about two weeks to get here (departed Moreton Bay on 6 March).  We are all pretty excited about the news!  We'd always thought that it'd be a fat chance for those birds to be tracked down (up?) to Japan!  Best regards, Maki, Environment Agency of Japan."  [6/4/98]

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