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Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

01 February 2002

Australia Working Hard to Protect Migratory Shorebirds


The Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today announced $210,000 funding from the Natural Heritage Trust for action to conserve wetlands in the Asia-Pacific region where migratory shorebirds gather to rest, feed and breed on their way to Australia.

Dr Kemp said the announcement of Shorebird Action Plan funding was particularly timely on the eve of World Wetlands Day 2002, the anniversary of the signing of the Ramsar Convention in 1971 (Ramsar, Iran). The funding will be provided to Mr Doug Watkins from Wetlands International - Oceania to continue his important work under the Shorebird Action Plan. Mr Watkins is an internationally recognised shorebird conservation expert who is playing a major role in the developing and implementing of essential conservation activities in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.

"The funding provided to Mr Watkins will enable him to work in key areas of the Flyway and in particular the Yellow Sea where huge numbers of birds rest during their migration to and from Australia. He will train site managers at major sites in the Flyway, work with local government officers to protect habitats in the key sites, help local community groups survey migratory shorebird populations in key staging sites, and promote conservation of endangered species of shorebirds with government and non-government groups. The specific countries that will be part of Mr Watkins conservation efforts are China, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh.

"An estimated two million birds of 40 species take flight from Australian shores each April and head north to their Arctic breeding grounds. When breeding is completed in July, they begin their long journey back to our wetlands and coasts to spend the summer months," Dr Kemp said.

"Some species of shorebirds, weighing as little as 30 grams, may travel 25,000 kilometres in one year. This is a truly amazing feat.

"The routes they travel along are called 'flyways', consisting of chains of significant wetlands. The shorebirds which visit Australia each year follow the East Asian-Australasian flyway, which also includes New Zealand, and countries in Eastern and South-east Asia and the Arctic Circle.

"With the population pressures and threats to wetland habitats in most of the countries along the flyway, it is imperative that we all work together to protect their wetland areas.

"The Australian Government today reaffirmed its commitment to regional shorebird conservation with the announcement of $210,000 from the Natural Heritage Trust to assist Wetlands International - Oceania implement the Shorebird Action Plan, bringing total Trust funding for international shorebird conservation provided to date to over $1 million.

"The Shorebird Action Plan began in 1998 and aims to build a network of 100 internationally significant habitat sites in 18 countries by 2005. There are currently 29 sites in nine countries, 11 of which are in Australia."

Australia's 11 internationally significant shorebird sites are all designated on the list of Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.

"Edithvale-Seaford is a great example of how a small urban wetland in one of our biggest cities can play a significant role in providing habitat for migratory shorebirds. In our summer months, this wetland is home to a very special visitor, the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Because large numbers of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers (up to 3000) visit the wetland, it has been rated as internationally significant and worthy of listing as a Ramsar site. The role of local communities in protecting such valuable urban wetlands cannot be underestimated.

"Thanks to the listing of Australia's newest Ramsar site, the Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands in Victoria, we now have 57 sites listed under the Ramsar Convention, which represents one of the world's first global environmental treaties, a Convention to protect wetland ecosystems," Dr Kemp said.

"By listing sites under the Ramsar Convention, Australia is promoting recognition and greater awareness of our most important wetlands.

"In addition, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 ensures added protection of Australia's Ramsar wetlands and migratory waterbird sites."

For more information on Australia's Ramsar sites and for a list of activities being held around the country to mark World Wetlands Day 2002, please check Environment Australia's web site at: http://www.ea.gov.au/water/wetlands/bulletin/index.html

For World Wetlands Day media kit materials see http://www.ea.gov.au/media/index.html

Print quality images of the event (jpg format) can be emailed upon request, contact: public.affairs@environment.gov.au

Contact:
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400


Introducing Australia's Newest Ramsar Site:


Edithvale- Seaford Wetlands, Victoria

Location:

Melbourne, Victoria (the Edithvale Wetlands are in the City of Kingston and the Seaford Wetlands are in the City of Frankston).

Area:

Edithvale Wetlands: 103 hectares
Seaford Wetlands: 158 hectares

Management:

Melbourne Water is the management authority with jurisdictional responsibility for conservation purposes over all of the Edithvale Wetlands and the wetland areas of the Seaford Wetlands. The Frankston City Council is responsible for some of the dryland areas of the Seaford Wetlands.

Description:

The Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands sit in an urban setting in one of Australia's biggest cities. Although a wetland site in the middle of urban Melbourne, their values have been rated as being of international significance and they were designated to the List of Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention in August 2001. They are the last remaining representative examples of the Carrum Carrum Swamp, a large southern Australian freshwater wetland, which was extensively drained in the late nineteenth century.

The Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands comprise two separate wetlands. The Edithvale Wetlands cover an area of 103 hectares and the Seaford wetlands 158 hectares. They are situated approximately nine kilometres apart and both wetlands lie within Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs.

The Wetlands are in close proximity to the Port Phillip Bay and Bellarine Peninsular Ramsar site creating an important link for migratory and other wetland birds and providing further protection for their important habitat. They also contribute to protecting the water quality of Port Phillip Bay by retaining and naturally 'treating' stormwater and other surface run-off at limited cost.

The site is significant for the diversity of migratory shorebirds it supports. Over 190 bird species have been recorded at the Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands, including 25 international migratory birds. The Wetlands regularly support more than one per cent of the East Asian-Australasian flyway population of the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (about 3000 birds) and also the Australasian Bittern, which is listed as Vulnerable by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

With over 41 significant plant species recorded at the site, the Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands also provide a rich habitat for a range of native wildlife, including frogs, reptiles, fish and invertebrate populations.

The wetlands are also important as a demonstration and research site to show how disturbed systems can retain significance through careful management. Their functions as a wetland are multi purpose, ranging from biodiversity conservation to improving water quality.

The local community is also very actively involved with the wetlands. The Management Plan for the Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands was written with extensive community consultation. The wetlands are the focus of Friends of Edithvale - Seaford Wetlands Inc, a very active, locally based community group that is involved in a range of both management and interpretation activities, including the construction of a bird hide. On-ground works being undertaken as part of the Management Plan include water quality monitoring, management of weed species, fire management, fencing and identification and protection of cultural sites.

The Natural Heritage Trust's National Wetlands Program provided $5900 in 1997/1998 to the Victorian Government to prepare the Ramsar nomination for the Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands.

For more information on the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia, please check Environment Australia's web site at: http://www.ea.gov.au/water/wetlands/ or free-call 1800 803 772.

Commonwealth of Australia