The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liberia first deposited his country's instrument of accession with the Director General of UNESCO in January 2002, but without designating at least one Wetland of International Importance in the territory of the acceding country (as required by the Convention). The designation of the first Ramsar site, Lake Piso, was completed by the National Environmental Commission of Liberia in June 2003; UNESCO has now informed the Ramsar Bureau that the requirements for accession have been met as of 2 July, and the Convention will therefore come into force for Liberia on 2 November 2003.
Lake Piso (76,091 hectares, 06°45'N 011°13'W) is an open coastal lagoon near Robertsport to the west of Monrovia, the largest such inlet on the Liberian coast, surrounded by forested hillsides (including one of the rarest tropical rainforests in the region) and fed by a number of creeks and rivers; these latter drain a series of swamps above the lagoon, the lower ones of which are tidal and support mangroves. Other mangrove swamps occur behind the dune ridge on the west side of the lake mouth and at other creek mouths. A series of small lakes with swampy margins occurs on the sandy forested spit that separates the lake from the sea. Some 38 communities, totaling about 7000 people, depend upon Piso for transportation, commercial and non-commercial fishing, and sand for construction, and farm-to-market infrastructure was well-developed prior to the civil crisis of the past decade. The site is important both as a nursery and spawning ground for fish and sea turtles and as feeding and roosting places for large numbers of shore and sea birds. Mammals such as antelopes, duikers, monkeys, bushbucks, and a few crocodiles are also found in the area. [19/07/03]