The Ramsar Bureau is very pleased to announce that the Republic of Equatorial Guinea has completed the accession process, as of 2 June 2003, and UNESCO has informed the secretariat that the Convention on Wetlands, as amended in 1982 and 1987, will enter into force for Equatorial Guinea on 2 October 2003. The new Party has designated three Ramsar sites at the time of accession, though details about them are presently rather sketchy. The territory of Equatorial Guinea comprises the mainland area of Río Muni bordering Cameroon and Gabon, the island of Bioko in the Bight of Biafra, where lies the capital city Malabo, and several other smaller islands in the Gulf of Guinea, some quite distant from the coast. Two of the three new Ramsar sites are located at the northern and southern extremes of the mainland, and the third is not part of the mainland at all. The Bureau's African regional team will very soon be following up with authorities in the new Party to establish the information about these sites that is required by Resolutions of the Conference of the Parties, but here is what is known about them at the present time:
The Isla de Annobón, which lies some 350km off the coast, is a small island of some 7km by 3km with touristic importance, all or some of which has been designated as a Nature Reserve for its large numbers of migratory birds and important vascular plants. Coral reefs, sandy or pebbly shores, intertidal flats, and at least one permanent lake are listed as the relevant wetland types, and the site is considered internationally important because of its vulnerable species as well as under both the waterbird and fish criteria. Traditional fishing, hunting, and subsistence agriculture are the principal human uses of the site.
Río Ntem o Campo is a Nature Reserve along the Ntem (or Campo) river, which forms the frontier with Cameroon in the nation's north, which has been designated for the List because of its support for vulnerable or endangered species and because it is an important source of food for fishes or spawning ground, nursery and/or migration path on which fish stocks depend. Coastal stablization and flood control have been noted as important hydrological values. The work of the forestry industry is seen as a potential threat to the ecological character of the site.
The Reserva Natural del Estuario del Muni (listed as covering 80,000 hectares) in the mainland south is an area of estuaries and near-coastal highlands characterized by dense forest, inundated forest, and peat meadows. Secondary forest and mangroves are found around the mouths of the rivers Mitong, Mitemle, and Mbante or Mbané in the estuary of the Río Muni. Manatees, elephants, baboons, and migratory birds have an important presence. Traditional fishing, hunting, and subsistence agriculture are practiced, and disturbances caused by overhunting, overfishing, and forest exploitation are perceived as potential threats. A management plan is in preparation.
The Convention on Wetlands extends its warm welcome to Equatorial Guinea as it joins the Ramsar family.