Thursday, July 5, 2012

Oceania presence at global conference on wetlands

5 July, 2012, Bucharest, Romania - The Pacific island region boasts six wetlands of international importance with more on the horizon.

Fiji, Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Samoa are Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, which will be holding its 11th Conference of the Parties in Romania over the next two weeks.

A key pillar of this Convention is to strengthen the wise use of wetlands around the world.  It has 162 contracting parties of which the Pacific Islands are grouped with Australia and New Zealand under the Oceania region, one of the six Ramsar regions.

Lake Ngardok, a Ramsar Wetland site of Importance, Palau

12% of the Earth’s land surface is made up of wetlands.  In the Pacific region Mangroves and coral reefs are the two main wetland types, containing 3% of the world’s mangroves and about 25% of the world’s coral reefs.

Right now there are seven members of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) that are contracting parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands with other members such as Kiribati, Tonga and Vanuatu, in the process of joining.

 “We are often asked when you join, what can the convention give them?  We often find that it’s up to the parties to utilize the Ramsar convention and brand to raise funds for their Ramsar Sites,” said Lew Young, the Senior Regional Adviser for Asia – Oceania.

Japan is an example of how the Ramsar Convention is used to promote sustainability of their wetlands.  In Japan there are approximately 46 Ramsar sites, all of which have clear logos identifying them as wetlands of international importance, these are usually driven by the local community to help attract development and tourism.  Within this there is often the opportunity to promote sustainable use of the wetlands such as organic rice farming, which then leads to the selling of organic rice that can attract a higher price so local farmers then benefit.

Lew Young addresses Oceania delegates at regional meeting

“This really takes on board the spirit of the Convention,” said Young, “so it’s not just about conserving wetlands for the birds it’s about getting communities involved, helping rural developments and so on  - this is part of the bigger, broader concept.”

There is over 190 million hectares from 2,000 wetland sites around the world, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.

In the Pacific the Marshall Islands are working to add their second Ramsar Site  – the Namdrik Atoll, Fiji plans to add two more sites - Nasoata Islet  and Lake Tagimoucia.

“It will be really good to see the Pacific develop some strong projects on the ground so decision makers can see the benefits of wetland conservation.  Hopefully partnerships between the Oceania parties and between some Asian parties, will provide support where there are gaps to bring this about; and help share ideas of possible ways forward.”

While attending the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Oceania region will meet regularly to coordinate their presence at the different discussion threads at the Conference of the Parties.

The 11th Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention is from 6 – 13 July, in Bucharest, Romania. Delegates from Australia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Palau and Samoa are attending the conference.

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