In 1965, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe granted the first European Diploma for exemplary management of a protected area to the Hautes Fagnes Nature Reserve, the largest peatland in Belgium (designated for the Ramsar List in 2003). Since, another 73 protected areas in 28 European countries have joined the restrictive club of areas with high-quality conservation management, substantiated by the European Diploma, and regularly assessed by experts from the Council of Europe. The Romanian part of the Danube Delta received this distinction in 2000, ten years after its designation as a Biosphere Reserve (under the Man-and-the-Biosphere Programme of UNESCO) and its designation as a Ramsar Site in 1991. These 25 years of professional management of the large river delta was another reason for the Romanian authorities, to invite national and international experts for an anniversary seminar in Tulcea on 1 September 2015, to reflect on the conservation management objectives for the next ten years. The World Heritage Convention recognized the outstanding universal value of the Romanian part of the Danube Delta. And Ramsar underlines the strategic position of the Delta in Europe’s most international river basin, providing a home for different people and their respective cultures at important crossroads, providing bridges (rather than borders) to link regions and countries, producing goods and services for the people in the Delta and exported far beyond.
The seminar provided a renewed opportunity to address the Delta ecosystem in an integrative way, also including the Ukrainian and Moldovan parts of the extensive Delta landscape (boosting a dozen different Ramsar Sites, the oldest of them being the Ukrainian Danube Plain originally designated in 1976 by the then Soviet Union). The professional staff in charge of the management of the Transboundary Ramsar Site, with offices in Tulcea, Sulina (Romania) and Vilkovo (Ukraine), has the challenge to coordinate management interventions with the requests of navigation, water management, tourism and other sectors, in order to make sure that biodiversity and fisheries resources of the delta are used in a wise way. To this end, an international advisory board was established in the early 1990s. After 25 years of planned management interventions, it still stands ready and looks forward to support further national and transboundary conservation efforts for this outstanding wetland ecosystem.
Author: Tobias Salathe