The Secretariat is pleased to announce that Estonia has designated its 17th Wetland of International Importance, Haapsalu-Noarootsi (27,450 hectares, 59°08'04''N 23°27'29''E), a wetland complex situated on the northwestern coast comprising vast shallow Baltic Sea areas, inlets and bays, coastal lagoons, coastal meadows, and reedbeds as well as mud- and sandflats.
As summarized by Ramsar's Kati Wenzel from the accompanying data sheet, the site is important as a wintering, staging, moulting and breeding site for 225 different bird species, including Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis, Common Eider Somateria mollissima and globally threathened Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus. At least 20% of the water birds migrating over the Baltic Sea (up to 2 million individuals) pass through this site. It is also one of the biggest spring spawning grounds in western Estonia for freshwater fish such as Pike Esox lucius.
Several rare and nationally protected plant species can be found as well as species protected on the European level like Fen Orchid Liparis loeselii. Threats to the site include the overgrowing of coastal grasslands due to abandonment, impacts of waste water from Haapsalu town, and an increase in invasive alien species. Two conservation projects have recently been carried out in the site to restore valuable habitats and enhance ecotourism facilities. A Nature Information Centre has been set up in Haapsalu and the site can be visited for hiking, bird watching, camping, and boat trips.
Located within the new Ramsar Site are a Nature Reserve, a Landscape Reserve, and a Limited-Conservation Area, as well as a BirdLife Important Bird Area (IBA).
Photos by Kaarel Kaisel and Ivar Ojaste