Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ramsar Convention to remain at IUCN


13 July 2012, Bucharest, Romania - DR1 was the buzz word during the 11th Conference of the Parties on the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the issue being ‘Draft Resolution One – Institutional hosting of the Ramsar Secretariat.’  After much deliberation and negotiation during the 11th Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, a consensus was agreed.
“The Conference of the Contracting Parties decides to renew its confidence to IUCN and continue its hosting arrangement for the Ramsar Secretariat”
In continuing to do so, the Ramsar Standing Committee, through a working group of contracting parties will explore; the accommodation of UN languages into the Convention; elevation of Ramsar visibility and stature including enhancing high level political engagement in the work of the convention at national, regional and global level; enhance the synergies between the Ramsar Convention and other multi-lateral environment agreements (MEA's); increased involvement of Ramsar in UNEP’s initiatives and programs regarding biodiversity-related MEAs to  enhance cooperation and synergies between the Ramsar Convention and UNEP.

Nicola Scott, NZ Delegation
“It has been a hard week and I think that we were on tender hooks right until the end of the meeting there were a number of items that were extremely controversial,” said Nicola Scott, head of the New Zealand delegation.

“Right up until the 99th hour we didn’t see how we were going to get though and find concensus but we did, the positive thing is that the meeting did not come to a formal vote on the hosting procedures.”

The majority of the Pacific parties to the Convention preferred to keep the status quo, keeping the Ramsar Secretariat hosted  by  IUCN.

The spirit of Ramsar is concensus, that contracting parties negotiate until they come to an agreement instead of formal voting to make decisions.  In the history of the Ramsar Convention, the contracting parties have never had to make a formal vote to come to an agreement.

Photo courtesy of Diane Klaimi, UNEP
While there is some work ahead to strengthen the Ramsar Convention, for the Oceania region it is hoped that there will be new contracting parties from the Pacific by the 12th Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention.  Kiribati, Tonga and Vanuatu are in the process of becoming contracting parties with support from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

“I think there were some very good outcomes for all out of this COP.  The issue of Insitutional hosting, while an important one, took up too much time and diverted attention away from the core business of the Convention – the conservation and wise use of wetlands,” said Vainuupo Jungblut, Ramsar Officer Oceania.

”Nevetherless, I am quite satisfied with the outcomes and am thankful that Ramsar’s spirit of consensus has prevailed once again, given those hard issues that were deliberated upon. With further Pacific Countries joining the Convention very soon, I look forward to having an even stronger Oceania delegation and voice at COP12 in Uruguay.”

High level segment to be part of Wetlands Conference


Ramsar COP 11 closing plenary


13 July 2012, Bucharest, Romania - The 12th Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Conventions in Uruguay could have a high level segment.   ‘Draft Resolution One – Institutional hosting of the Ramsar Secretariat,” which was adopted during the final day of negotiations in Romania, will form a working group under the Standing Committee to look at ways to enhance the visibility of the Ramsar Convention.

This resolution notes the desire of some Parties to incorporate a high level political segment to improve the visibility of the Convention.  It also instructs the working group to explore the -
“Elevation of Ramsar visibility and stature, including inter alia enhancing high level political engagement in the work on the convention at national, regional and global level. The working group will among other possibilities look into a ministerial segment at the COP including topics to be addressed at this level.”
Fiji was one of the Contracting Parties at the Ramsar COP11 that had a cabinet minister as their Head of Delegation, Honourable Col. Timoci Natuva, the Acting Minister of Local Government, Urban Development, Housing and Environment of Fiji.

As the incoming representative to the Standing Committee of the Ramsar Convention on behalf of the Oceania region, Fiji will strive to help raise the visibility of wetlands conservation and wise use at the high level.

Fiji delegation at COP11
“We thought we could arrange a regular meeting in the next three years to brief our leaders, with the plan that this raised awareness would bring more commitment to the Ramsar initiative – a regional type of approach which may help widen our group,” said Ms Taina Tagicakabau, the Permanent Secretary  of  the Fiji Ministry of Local Government, Urban Development, Housing and Environment.

Multi-lateral environment agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Framework to the Convention on Climate Change often hold a high level segment to their Conferences of the Parties.  The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) holds a high level segment to their annual meetings every two years.

“I think that building high level support for the work of the Convention is a way of increasing its visibility and profile at the national level and at the global level, amongst the other major Multi-lateral Environment Agreements.   A ministerial segment at the next COP may reap benefits for the Convention in the long term,” said Vainuupo Jungblut, Ramsar Officer Oceania.

Fiji has now taken the reigns from the Marshall Islands as the country to represent the Oceania group for the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.  Selection of representing countries from the region is on a rotational basis, among other things, the role of the representing country on the Ramsar Standing Committee is to voice concerns from the Oceania region. 

Mr Vainuupo Jungblut, SPREP
“I look forward to working with Fiji as the incoming regional representative for Oceania for the next three years on the Ramsar Standing Committee and also commend the Marshall Islands for their hard work and service over the last triennium,” said Jungblut.   

The Oceania Contracting Parties consist of Australia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Samoa.

“I think it’s a really positive grouping and I think that we are getting, the region is getting more and more of a profile at this Conference, but in particular, the Pacific Island countries are working together more and more effectively and having more of a profile at the meeting itself, so it’s all positive,” said Nicola Scott, New Zealand’s Head of Delegation.

The 11th Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in Romania was held from 6 – 13 July.

Uruguay, home of Ramsar COP12


13 July 2012, Bucharest, Romania Uruguay will be hosting the next Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention on wetlands in 2015.  Announced at the closing ceremony of Ramsar COP11 in Romania, the event will be held at the Conrad Resort and Casino in Punta del Este.

“It will be a major challenge for Uruguay and thus we call upon the parties to work with us during the organization and actual holding of the COP to ensure success,” presented the delegate from Uruguay at the Closing.

“I would like to join with those who have expressed their congratulations to Romania, out host country and thank them for the excellent organization and efforts taken during COP 11.  We express gratitude to the people and government of Romania.”

“See you in Uruguay in 2015.”

Uruguay is located between Brazil and Argentina, and became the thirty-fifth Ramsar Contracting Party in 1984.  

There are three proposed Wetlands of International Importance for Uruguay – Humedales de Stana Lucia, Laguna de Rocha and Islas del Rio Negro y Humedales de Villa Soriano.  


Uruguay has two and their Wetlands of International Importance Banados del Este y Franja Costera and Eseros de Farrapos e islas del Rio Uruguay.  Both sites have a combined total surface area of  424,904 hectares.

The date for the 12th Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention is yet to be confirmed.

Voices of the Pacific@Ramsar COP11


Talie Foliga on Left

13 July 2012, Bucharest, Romania - 

Mr. Talie Foliga, Samoa

What have you learnt at this COP?
“The diversity of the issues, the diversity of thought from each region regarding the deliberations on several draft resolutions which were put forward for the COP to discuss so it is very interesting to hear what other parties have said especially the DR1. (Draft Resolution 1 – Institutional hosting of the Ramsar Secretariat)”

What advice do you have for others attending the next COP?
“I think my only advice is whoever is being appointed to attend the COP I think that there is a need to really look into the issues especially the issues that are related to our region and also to our respective boundaries, so when you come to the issues of discussion in the plenary then you are well prepared for what is going to be discussed and understand the process of the plenary.”


Ms. Nunia Thomas (Left) - image courtesy of QuartzFilm.Ro

Ms. Nunia Thomas, Fiji

What have you learnt at this COP?
“I learnt that there is a lot of tools available through the Ramsar Secretariat on how we can implement the Ramsar Convention, particularly in capacity building – we attended a talk on capacity building where people can talk about capacity building issues they had and Ramsar can think of ways to help come up with ways to address these.

A lot of other countries are facing the same problems as the Pacific in terms of implementing and aligning the convention with legislation and the other conventions to which they are signatories.  There is a challenge for everyone to align their conventions like with the Convention on Biological Diversity but I think everyone is moving forward to make it happen.”

What advice do you have for others attending a Ramsar COP?
“Prepare your documents well, read through the draft resolutions, get it nationally consulted, nation- wide consultation with the Department of Environment and other relevant ministries, in Fiji we have the Office of the Solicitor General, so it looked at by the lawyers because when you are talking at this level you are legally committing your nation, your country, its good if people back home are aware of what you are committing to at the Convention.”


Ms. Pua Michael, Palau

Ms. Pua Michael, Palau

What have you learnt at this COP?
“This is my first Conference of the Parties ever for any convention so it was a very big eye opener for me from the rules and procedures to everything - it was a big eye opener.  Another thing I learnt is there is help out there you just have to be willing to look for it and I think if for Palau’s case if you be a little bit more ambitious and look for the help I think we can find it to come back to our place and do implementation on the ground.”

What advice do you have for others attending the next COP?
“You need to read all the documents and the draft resolutions to give yourself the background to come to the meeting and also make sure that whatever decision you make is in line with the people back home.”


Ms. Olai Uludong, Marshall Islands

Ms. Olai Uludong, Marshall Islands

What have you learnt at this COP?
“That the Pacific delegates really need a guide on how to negotiate text that is appropriate to their county because you can get lost among all the draft resolutions, at this COP there are 22 draft resolutions and unless we know about them then we don’t say anything.”

What advice do you have for others attending the next COP?
“Read the rules of procedures first and then read all the Draft Resolutions before the opening plenary and remember what you’re country positions are and also what the other conventions have decided.”

Ms. Nicola Scott, New Zealand


Ms. Nicola Scott, New Zealand

What advice do you have for others attending the next COP?
“It depends on your delegation but preparation is everything if you are a small delegation you need to identify your key issues and to be actually well briefed on those to know what you want out of the agenda item and what would be your ultimate target, or what you can live with.  That way you are actually well prepared to engage effectively on the floor and also to know what your colleagues in the region want out of the meeting.

Working the room – it is really important that you get out and talk to people and find out what they think and what their positions are and where you can work together constructively, when people work together as a block, it’s really a powerful tool because then you cover more ground with smaller delegations.”

Friday, July 13, 2012

Reimaanlok, a conservation plan for the future of the Marshall Islands




12 July 2012, Bucharest, Romania - Reimaanlok, the Marshall Islands Conservation Plan is proposed to under review this year.  Established in 2007, a year after the Marshall Islands signed on to the Micronesia Challenge, the plan is a guide to help the island nation meet their part of the commitment.

 The Micronesia Challenge aims to effectively conserve 30% of nearshore marine and 20% of terrestrial resources across Micronesia by 2020.  Reimaanlok maps the course of actions to be taken by Marshall Islands, to establish and manage community-based conservation areas.

The Marshall Islands Conservation Plan was featured at the Oceania side event at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

“We use the Reimaanlok to guide us in our work.  A key part of the vision of this plan is to ensure we have a community based approach to nature conservation,” presented Ms. Olai Uludong, Chief Coastal and Land Management Division of the RMI Environmental Management Authority

“We always try to work with the community as much as possible because if the actions are community driven, then there is community ownership.”

Ms. Olai Uludong presenting the Reimaanlok
It is envisages that when the plan goes into review that it is hoped that , the findings will help them understand just how successful the actions have been under the guidance of the Reimaanlok and how close they are to achieving the Micronesia Challenge.

To fully understand the challenges faced by the Marshall Islands in implementing their conservation plans, an understanding of the islands geographical features helps. 

The Marshall Islands consists of 29 atolls with 5 solitary islands.  It comprises 1,2225 individual islands and islands and has an Exclusive Economic Zone of over 2 million Km2, less that 0.01% of this, is land.  

Threats to their nature conservation range from overfishing to urban development and pollution to the nuclear history, to the loss of traditional conservation purposes. 



The Ramsar Wetland site of International Importance is based on one of the large coral atolls, the Jaluit Atoll Conservation Area it comprises 91 islets with a land area of 700 hectares enclosing a large lagoon.   

There are plans to propose a second Ramsar Wetland of international importance, the Namdrik Atoll.  Here at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Wetlands, the Marshall Islands, the island nation sought support to help expand their wetlands conservation areas.

“We’re here because we can’t conserve on our own anymore, we do have our traditional knowledge and skills for conservation but at this particular point we need technical assistance, we need financial resources, capacity building and knowledge, I think this is where we can try and achieve those and tap into the opportunities presented at these conferences.  We want to nominate more Ramsar sites.”

At this meeting the Marshall Islands will relinquish their position on the Standing committee and welcome Fiji in to this role to represent Oceania.

The 11th Conference of the Parties on the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is held in Romania from 6 -13 July.  The Marshall Islands are contracting parties to the convention along with Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Samoa. 

The Micronesia Challenge showcased in Romania



12 July 2012, Bucharest, Romania - The Micronesia Challenge was featured at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Wetlands in Romania.  

An Oceania side event showcased the Challenge which was signed in 2006.  It commits the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Marshall Islands, Northern Marianas and Palau to effectively conserve 30% near-shore marine resources and 20% terrestrial resources across Micronesia by 2020. 

“Known more on a regional level than it is on a national level so it is a challenge to get the local communities to know more about the challenge,” said Pua Michael, the Ramsar National Focal Point of Palau.

“We need to do more work to promote the Micronesia Challenge within our own countries and communities.”

So successful has the awareness work been on a regional and international level that it has catalyzed efforts such as the Caribbean Challenge and the Coral Triangle.  It has also drawn huge interest from donors and partners.

As part of this commitment each island nation is responsible for raising funds to help bring this challenge into fruition, known as the Micronesia Challenge Endowment Fund.  FSM has since raised 2.2 million dollars, the Marshall Islands has raised 2.3 million dollars and Palau has raised 6.1 million dollars. 

To date over USD 27 million has also been raised through different opportunities and partners such as the LifeWeb, The Packard Foundation, Global Environment Facility and the Nature Conservation and Conservation International. 

Ms. Pua Micheal, presenting on the Micronesia Challenge
“While awareness of the Micronesia Challenge may not be so strong in Palau, communities do understand the importance of nature conservation, it’s our way of life in Palau.  We’re already working to save our wetlands and terrestrial areas at the national level - this has been ingrained into us as part of the Palauan culture.” 

Palau has a Protected Area Network which was put into place before the Micronesia Challenge this is a number of Protected Areas throughout Palau which are eligible for funds under the Green Fee if there is a management plan in place.   These Protected Areas are managed by the local community of Palau and the efforts will go towards achieving Palau’s commitment to the Micronesia Challenge.

The next steps will see Palau carry out their marine monitoring protocol which measures how effective the Marine Protected areas are managed.  Preparations are still underway to finalise the Terrestrial monitoring protocol in Palau.

Palau is a contracting party to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands along with Australia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Samoa.  The 11th Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is held in Romania, 6 – 13 July.

Scene@Oceania Side Event

12 July 2012, Bucharest, Romania - On Thursday evening, the day before the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands closed, the Pacific came together at their side event to showcase the nature conservation work done in the region.


Below are scenes from the event!


The event was supported by the European Union, UNEP, African, Caribbean, Pacific Multi-lateral Environment Agreement Capacity Building Project.  The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme is the Pacific regional hub of this project.

Through the doors into the Pacific event hosted by the Oceania Group



Mr. Vainuupo Jungblut, Ramsar Oceania Officer based at SPREP, providing attendees with a Pacific overview of work done in the region to conserve wetlands


Clean Pacific bags filled with wetlands material were distributed

Participants at the Pacific side event hosted by Oceania

Ms. Pua Michael, presenting on the Micronesia Challenge

Ms. Olai Uludong of the Marshall Islands, explains about the nature Conservation Plan and work in the Marshall Islands under the Remaanlok.


Ms. Nunia Thomas and Ms. Tavenisa Luisa presenting on 
Fiji's Hidden Treasure, the wetlands.



Mr Hugh Robertson of New Zealand, presenting on the 
Wetland Conservation work in Aotearoa.



Participants attending the Pacific side event hosted by the Oceania group.



Mr Greg Manning (Left), head of Australian Delegation as MC and moderator for the event.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Australia featured in Wetlands and Tourism publication launched at Ramsar COP 11


Destination Wetlands: supporting sustainable tourism

10 July 2012, Bucharest, Romania - 'Destination Wetlands: supporting sustainable tourism’ was launched at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.  It features the Kakadu National Park of Australia, one of 14 case studies in the publication that was formed as a joint partnership between the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the UN World Tourism Organisation.

According to ‘Destination Wetlands: supporting sustainable tourism’, international tourism is expected to reach 1 billion international arrivals and forecast to rise to 1.8 billion by 2030. 

Wetlands are a significant tourism experience and are likely to be a key part of the expansion in demand for tourism locations.  People are naturally attracted to water and coastal wetlands such as coral reefs and beaches and to inland wetlands such as lakes and rivers, for the Pacific region in particular beaches are a key selling point for tourism.

Marine Protected Area, Chelbacheb, Palau
Photo:  Stuart Chape
“The relevance of this theme for the Pacific is immense, during the Palau Ramsar meeting in March this year, participants highlighted and reaffirmed the value of tourism as one of the most important economic sectors for the region, ” said Mr. Vainuupo Jungblut, the Oceania Ramsar Officer at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

“Given the role our wetlands play in Pacific tourism, this publication should be of interest to many of our SPREP members, not just those that are Ramsar contracting parties.”

“Wetlands, home and destination” is the theme of the Ramsar COP11, with Tourism and Wetlands being the special theme of 2012.  The new publication contains references to existing guidelines on sustainable tourism as well as many other useful materials on developing and managing sustainable tourism.  It is relevant to wetland site managers, tourism and wetland policymakers and planners, and the private sector.

The Kakadu National Park is located in the Northern Territory of Australia it covers an area of nearly two million hectares and encompasses a living Aboriginal culture, extraordinary natural landscapes, a rich variety of plans and animals as well as rock art and archaeological sites.  In 1981 the Park was listed as a World Heritage Area.

Tourism in Kakadu generates local income, employment, business opportunities, services and support for cultural traditions.  It is also a significant attraction for Australia’s international tourism.  From 2007 – 2009, the Park received over 225,000 visitors per year, generating an annual economic impact of AUD 130 million directly from visitors.  These numbers then dropped to 176,000 in 2010 due to the impact of the global economic downturn on international tourism.  Approximately 55 per cent of visitors to Kakadu National Park are Australian residents with 45 percent being international visitors.

Kakadu National Park featured in publication
“Kakadu is is a key element in Australia's National Landscapes program which promotes the best destinations Australia has to offer for their distinctive natural and cultural experiences,” said Greg Manning, Head of the Australian delegation at Ramsar COP 11.

“Kakadu National Park features a successful model of joint management between the Aboriginal Traditional Owners and the Australian Government's Director of National Parks. Through joint management, the Traditional Owners work together with park staff to balance the protection of their culture and the places that are important to them with the needs of tourists and other stakeholders. The Traditional Owners of Kakadu are proud to share their country with visitors.”

Palau, an Oceania contracting party to the convention is also featured in the publication, with an image taken during the Oceania Preparatory meeting for Ramsar COP11 while on a kayaking tour.  The image of New Zealands booklet on 'Magical Places, 40 wetlands to visit in New Zealand' is also featured in the publication.

To learn more about Tourism and Wetlands please visit:  http://www.ramsar.org/cda/en/ramsar-tourismandwetlands/main/ramsar/1%5E25782_4000_0__

A Pacific flavour at Wetlands Convention in Romania


The Oceania group meet in an informal meeting after the plenary

10 July 2012, Bucharest, Romania - Oceania has a raised profile at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.  For the first time, the group which includes Australia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Samoa have come together to take part in two key visible activities; a Pacific exhibition booth which opened last week and a side event on the evening of Thursday.

Plans to raise the visibility and profile of Oceania at this Convention began at the preparatory meeting of contracting parties from Oceania in Palau this year in March with a special planning session on communications funded by the EU and UNEP under the Capacity Building related to MEAs in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Countries Project.

The Pacific booth, a colourful exhibition amongst featured hundreds of copies of materials which have proven popular, with very few materials left for distribution and numerous requests for more information about wetlands conservation in the Pacific region.

“We were very surprised by the strong interest we received,” said Ms. Nanette Woonton, the Media and Public Relations Officer of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

“Fortunately most of the Oceania parties brought materials to display, many of which disappeared just days after they were made available.  We are really pleased that we took this approach to raise our profile as the interest has been amazing.”

Also to take place is the “My Pacific, My Islands, My Wetlands” event on Thursday evening.  This event will feature speakers from SPREP, Marshall Islands, Palau, Fiji and New Zealand.  It will provide a regional overview of wetlands conservation in the Pacific, the sub-regional perspective on the Micronesia Challenge and the actions taking place at the national level in the Marshall Islands, Palau, Fiji and New Zealand.

During this event the Pacific Oceanscape will also be highlighted with a film that was showcased at the Rio+20 Earth Summit, produced by Conservation International.  There will also be an injection of Pacific flavor with a giveaway prize of gifts from Oceania after a short quiz on the regions wetlands

“We’re excited to bring a taste of the Pacific to Romania!  We’re really looking forward to it, this will be another chance for us to highlight what we are achieving in our region, the challenges we have faced, and point out just how much more we could achieve with added support.”

This side event is also funded by the EU and UNEP under the Capacity Building related to MEAs in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Countries, Project.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Samoa at Wetlands Conference in Romania


Talie Foliga, MNRE, Samoa at the Ramsar COP 11 plenary


9 July, 2012, Bucharest, Romania – Samoa is lending its voice to that of over 100 countries attending a global conference on wetlands in Romania this week.

The 11th Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has over 1,000 delegates, donors and partners meeting to discuss ways to strengthen the wise use of wetlands around the world, as one of the contracting parties to this convention Samoa’s presence is important.

“We want to ensure Samoa has contributed to the discussions of the draft resolutions that will guide the work of the Convention in the next triennium,” said Talie Foliga of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Samoa.

“Being here is also an opportunity for us to learn from other parties about their success stories, challenges and the problems they have faced and overcome when implementing activities under the Ramsar Convention.”

Lake Lanoto’o National Park, consisting of 500 hectares was established in 1971.  Nearly 10 years later in 2005 the Park was established as the Ramsar Wetland site of importance in Samoa.  Managing the site over the years has provided its challenges and it’s here in Romania that Foliga hopes he can take lessons learnt from other countries and apply those at the national level in Samoa.

The national park lives in the central highlands of Upolu and consists of three small crater lakes which support fringing herbaceous marsh and swamp forest.  The lakes are among the few remaining near-pristine lakes in Samoa and are critical to maintaining the health of the watershed of the capital city, Apia.  The forests of the National Park contained threatened endemic bird species including the Tooth Billed Pigeon, the Mao and the Samoan Triller.

Right now the main challenges faced in managing the national park are the lack of resources along with those that come with having different owners of the land in the park. 

“We plan to bring all landowners and stakeholders together to discuss ways forward to continue conserving the land within the Lake Lanoto’o National Park, here at the Ramsar meeting we hope to gain some guidance as to how we can sustainably finance the park.  Right now it is funded by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and we seek partnership from regional organisations and outside donors.”

Samoa received funding under the Ramsar Small Grants fund to improve and strengthen the trails as well as develop signage for the park.  The next steps will include preparing project proposals to seek funds to help manage the park, finalise the Ramsar Information Sheet, confirm the Management plan of the Park and complete the progress report required under the Ramsar Convention.

Samoa is one of seven Pacific nations that make up the Oceania group under the Ramsar Convention - others include Australia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Palau and Papua New Guinea.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fiji to represent the Oceania region


The Fiji delegation seated next to Estonia at the main meeting of the Ramsar COP 11
8 July 2012, Bucharest, Romania – Fiji will be at the helm for Oceania, representing the regions’ interests on the Standing Committee of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.  Currently occupied by the Marshall Islands, the responsibilities will be handed over to Fiji once the 11th Conference of the Parties is finished.

The standing committee meets in between the triennial Conferences of the Parties and provides guidance and direction on behalf of their region to the Ramsar Convention. The Oceania region consists of Australia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Samoa - all contracting parties to the convention from the Pacific region.

Fiji acceded to the Ramsar Convention in 2006 with the establishment of the Upper Navua Conservation Area as the Ramsar Wetland site of Importance, the island nation is now planning to have more sites submitted for inclusion - the Nasoata Islet and Lake Tagimoucia.

“Fiji very much appreciates the support of the region and we will do our best to consider their interests and encourage those first, before we try addressing the wider Ramsar issues,” said Ms. Taina Tagicakabau, the Permanent Secretary for the Fiji Ministry of Local Government, Urban Development, Housing and Environment.

“We thought we could arrange a regular meeting in the next three years to brief our leaders, with the plan that this raised awareness would bring more commitment to the Ramsar initiative - a regional type of approach which may help widen our group.”

Ms. Taina  Tagicakabau, the Permanent Secretary for the Fiji Ministry of Local Government, Urban Development, Housing and Environment - taking notes at the Ramsar Standing Committee meeting.

The level of support for wetlands conservation is strong in Fiji.  This is indicated by a four member delegation at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention in Romania that includes a Cabinet Minister as the Head of Delegation, as well as a member of the environment NGO – NatureFiji–MareqetiViti, and the Department of Environment.

While the delegation is at the Ramsar COP11, they hope to strengthen partnerships with donors and other interested organisations and contracting parties.  Fiji is undertaking projects at the national level which requires co-funding and the island nation is also hopeful they can reinforce possibilities for financial support here in Romania, as well as technical support for their wetlands conservation.

“Our biggest challenge in Fiji right now is to do a proper inventory of our identified sites, 42 in all, and this is going to be a costly activity.  We are calling for interest to undertake this inventory, and are still seeking the bit of funds needed to help us move forward.”

The 11th Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention is hosted in Romania from 6 – 13 July.  Of the Oceania region; Australia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Palau and Samoa are attending Ramsar COP11.

NatureFiji-MareqetiViti - seen at Global Wetlands Conference



NatureFiji-MareqetiViti banner

8 July 2012, Bucharest, Romania - The banner of ‘NatureFiji-MareqetiViti’ is proudly displayed at the Pacific booth at the Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention in Romania.

The Environment NGO aims to enhance biodiversity and habitat conservation, endangered species protection and sustainable use of natural resources of the Fiji Islands through the promotion of collaborative conservation action, awareness raising, and education research and biodiversity information exchange. 

It is a member of the Fiji delegation at this event, providing technical advice and support.  NatureFiji-MareqetiViti works closely alongside Rivers Fiji, the ecotourism business responsible for managing the Upper Navua Conservation Area which is the Ramsar Wetland Site of Importance for Fiji.

It was established as a Ramsar site in 2006 when Fiji gained accession into the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.  It’s a narrow gorge in the central highlands of Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji and hosts native fauna and flora including an abundance of the threatened endemic Fiji sago palm and breeding populations of at least two endemic freshwater fish species.  The surrounding forest also hosts 17 endemic species of birds.

The land is owned by traditional landowning clans and is leased to Rivers Fiji, the ecotourism and rafting venture which is developing sustainable ecotourism further.

L - R, Ms. Nunia Thomas NatureFiji-MareqetiViti, Ms. Tavenisa Luisa, Department of Environment Fiji
during the Ramsar COP11 Plenary (main meeting)
“We have seen some positive results from our awareness work on this wetland site,” said Nunia Thomas, the Conservation Coordinator of the NGO and Fiji’s NGO Communications, Environment and Public Awareness Focal Point for Ramsar.

“In 2010, through the Ramsar Small Grants Fund, we designed a programe for children to visit the river site with elders, armed with disposable cameras to take images and learn from the elders and the guides accompanying them of the cultural, ecological and biological significance of the Ramsar site.  This resulted in a range of images being showcased and shared by children who told of the new things they learnt, as well as their shared appreciation of the traditional knowledge the elders have.”

This venture was so successful, a staff member from NatureFiji-MareqetiViti now dedicates three days a week to work with Rivers Fiji and continue the support for this awareness raising campaign. 

Amongst other areas, the environment NGO is dedicated to help children in Fiji broaden their understanding and knowledge of local biodiversity and nurture respect for the local species and ecosystems so they will continue to consider the environment and our nature in making future decisions.

“We noticed that our children know more about the koala bears and tigers – animals overseas, than they know about local plants and animals so we wanted to revive that culture of knowing our biodiversity in our own backyard and forming an appreciation for it and the basic ecosystem services they help to provide.”

NatureFiji-MareqetIViti was launched in 2007 as the working arm of the Fiji Nature Conservation Trust, it has six start-up programmes; Nature Club; Communication; Endangered Species; Resorts’ Conservation Values; Conservation Partnerships with Landowners and; Savura Education and Amenity Park.

As part of the Endangered Species Programme, NatureFiji-MareqetiViti has identified priority species to work with under the Fiji National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan, one of which is the endemic Fiji Sago Palm.   NatureFiji-MareqetiViti has drawn up a recovery plan for this palm that includes restoring sites through agreement with landowners and drawing up guidelines for sustainable harvesting for thatch, amongst other areas.

“In working to conserve this palm, it has been a real eye opener for us, as there are 300 families in one province that depends on the making of thatch to make a living,” said Thomas.

“Rather than try to ban the sale of thatch to conserve the species, we have learnt if you can encourage them to continue to use it they practice sustainable harvesting by managing their own plantations of Sago palm.  Whereas in the past they would harvest sago palm from the wild, they are now creating gardens, rehabilitating degraded sago fields and have established a sustainable harvest regime.  This way we help save the species and they have a long lasting source of income.”

This week in Romania however, the focus for NatureFiji-MareqetiViti is the Ramsar Convention.  The NGO will participate in a Pacific side event, presenting on the Upper Navua Conservation Area with the Environment Department.  Holding a place on the national steering committee for the Conservation of Wetlands, NatureFiji-MareqetiViti is a valuable member on the Fiji delegation.

“We have some really good environment legislation in place which relates to the Ramsar Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity, the next step now is for contracting parties to implement these conventions right down to the community level,” believes Thomas.

“For the average person in the household this is important because we should all help and ensure Fiji will do its part and we all play our role in ensuring the wise use of wetlands, spreading awareness so all can better manage their wetlands together.”

NatureFiji-MareqetiViti has a staff of seven with 300 club members including supporters.  If you would like to lend your support please visit NatureFiji-MareqetiViti .