Ramsar awards 2012

40th Anniversary Honorary Award

Dr Luc Hoffmann

To recognize and celebrate one of the founders of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, in this 40th anniversary year, the Standing Committee has decided to bestow a 40th Anniversary Honorary Ramsar Award to Dr Luc Hoffmann.

Dr Hoffmann is celebrated for his lifetime engagement in the cause of wetland conservation and environmental conservation in a broader sense. For decades, Luc Hoffmann has inspired and been a mentor to scientists and conservationists concerned with wetlands. He is one of the founding fathers of the Convention on Wetlands, and he has also been the co-founder and/or key supporter of two of the International Organisation Partners (IOPs) of the Convention: WWF and Wetlands International. In addition to his key role in the development of the IOPs, he created three key wetland conservation organisations: the Tour du Valat biological station in the French Camargue (1954), the FIBA (Fondation du Banc d’Arguin, 1984) and the MAVA Foundation (1994). A conservation pioneer, he participated in the first steps towards the creation of an international treaty for wetlands since the start of the MAR project in 1961. Dr Hoffmann has also been a leading figure in the conservation of such iconic wetlands as the Camargue in France, Coto Doñana in Spain, and Prespa (Albania, FYR of Macedonia and Greece).

Dr Hoffmann has been one of the most significant contributors to the Convention, as a founding father, co-founder of supporting organisations, through his scientific and strategic contributions, and also through important financial contributions, whether directly to the Convention or through other foundations and organisations or projects. It is impossible to do justice to his immense contribution and long-term support to the treaty and to wetland conservation in a few words – the 40th Anniversary Honorary Ramsar Award is a tribute from the Ramsar community to this benevolent figure who has accompanied the Convention from its conception to its maturity.

Interview with Dr Luc Hoffmann

You are often referred to as one of the founding fathers of the Convention on Wetlands.  What was the path that led to the idea of creating a Convention, then to its becoming reality?

The idea was proposed by attendants of the conference on wetlands in 1962 in Saintes Maries de la Mer and formulated as a recommendation. Since I was the organizer of the conference, I have then tried to find support by governments and intergovernmental organisations.

Ed. Note: The initial call for an international convention on wetlands came in 1962 during a conference which formed part of Project MAR, a programme established in 1960 following concern at the rapidity with which large stretches of marshland and wetlands in Europe were being "reclaimed" or otherwise destroyed, with a resulting decline in numbers of waterfowl.

The MAR Conference was organized by Mr Luc Hoffmann, with the participation of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (now IUCN), the International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau, IWRB (now Wetlands International), and the International Council for Bird Preservation, ICBP (now BirdLife International), and was held in Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer in the French Camargue, 12-16 November 1962.

The breadth of your achievements and influence is breath-taking.  It is obvious you have a wide vision of conservation.  What gave you this broad perception?  And what motivated you to dedicate your life to conservation?

I was always interested in nature and was inspired by personalities like Max Nicholson, Peter Scott and François Bourlière.

Why do wetlands interest you in particular?

There was an emotional predilection for wetlands, and also the fact that wetlands were neglected by naturalists.

In your opinion, what is the value (and the contribution) of the Convention to wetland and water conservation?

The Convention is a very important contribution to sensibilisation for wetlands, to the study of wetlands and to the conservation of particularly valuable areas.

What does the 40th anniversary Honorary Ramsar Award mean to you?

This is proof that if you insist on a process, you reach success.

Do you have any general messages about the importance of wise use of wetlands?

Wetlands play an important part in the functioning of nature but they can only play this part if they are wisely used. Therefore wise use is as important as preservation. 

Ed. Note: Luc Hoffmann (right) offers the 
French Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transport and Housing, 
Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet an egret sculpture, overlooking is Tour du Valat president Jean-Paul Taris

During the 40th anniversary year of the Convention, the Camargue was chosen as the locality for the annual meeting of the French Ramsar actors to commemorate the international conference of the project MAR (from “marshes, marécages, marismas”). Throughout his life, Luc Hoffmann contributed scientifically, strategically and financially to wetland conservation and to the establishment and the further development of the Convention--besides his many other achievements. A special evening was set up in the Camargue to honour him.

In your opinion, what are the most important aspects of your achievements that you would like to see highlighted in the context of this award?

With the pressure for destruction of wetlands increasing, we need to extend wetlands observatories to intensify permanent observation of wetlands.