From 26 February to 2 March 1998, the Convention's Secretary General, Delmar Blasco, visited Japan for discussions with government officials and other duties.
As part of his visit, he attended the first two days of a workshop in Kushiro (host city of Ramsar COP5) related to the project presently being developed by a group of NGOs in response to Ramsar COP6 Recommendation 6.3 on involving local and indigenous people in wetland management. IUCN's Social Policy Group is leading in the implementation of the project, in cooperation with the Kushiro International Wetland Centre, the Caddo Lake Institute (USA), the US Ramsar Committee, and WWF International. The workshop in Kushiro analyzed a number of case studies from the Asia/Pacific region and the first draft of the Guidelines for Involving Local and Indigenous People in Wetland Management, which will constitute the main output of the project. The draft guidelines will be submitted to the Ramsar Standing Committee in October 1998, with the expectation that they will be endorsed for transmission to Ramsar COP7 (Costa Rica, May 1999).
The following pictures illustrate some of the other fun the Secretary General had in Kushiro.
The Secretary General observing the expanse of the Akkeshi Ramsar site in the northern Japanese prefecture of Hokkaido, from one of the observation points. Ramsar sites in Hokkaido are endowed with excellent visitor and information centre facilitities and constitute a key element in the emerging ecotourism insdutry in Hokkaido.
Wise use of wetlands. The Secretary General strikes a convincing pose with fishermen who pay a day fee of ¥ 1000 to fish in the frozen lake of the Kushiro-shitsugen Ramsar site. (Fishing at night is free!)
The Japanese crane (the Tancho) had been on the verge of extinction. The village of Tsurui in Hakkaido has become famous for its winter feeding initiative for the Tancho. The Secretary General visited the village and appears here with the Deputy Mayors of Kushiro, Mr. T. Yamazaki (left), and of Tsurui, Mr. H. Yoneoka (to the right of the SG). The black spots in the background are the tails of the cranes that are waiting on th snow to be fed.
Over 200 Japanese cranes (the Tancho) come every day in wintertime to the Tsurui village to receive their ration of corn. During the summer period they stay at their breeding sites in the nearby marshes where they find enough food to get on with.
The Secretary General with Mrs Watanabe of Tsurui village. She has been feeding the cranes for over 30 years now, and is the only one who can walk among the cranes without scaring them away.