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The State Government has strengthened its commitment to conserving the State's wetlands with the nomination of a further three areas for listing under the international Convention on Wetlands, commonly referred to as the Ramsar Convention.

Environment Minister Cheryl Edwardes today presented a Ramsar wetlands nomination document to Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary to Federal Environment Minister Senator Robert Hill.

The nominations include three wetland systems - Becher Point near Rockingham, Lake Gore near Esperance and the Muir-Byenup complex east of Manjimup - as well as areas to be added to four existing Ramsar sites (the Ord River Floodplain, the Peel-Yalgorup system, Toolibin Lake east of Narrogin and the Vasse-Wonnerup system near Busselton).

The Convention on Wetlands is an international treaty that promotes the conservation of wetlands of international significance and the wise use of wetlands generally. The convention was first adopted in 1971 at a meeting in Ramsar, Iran.

It currently lists 1038 sites throughout the world covering an area of more than 78 million hectares. Australia, one of the first signatories to the Convention, has 53 listed Ramsar wetlands of which nine are in Western Australia.

Mrs Edwardes said that four years ago, the State Government made a commitment that it would consider nominating additional wetlands for listing under the Convention.

The Department of Conservation and Land Management with additional specialist advice from Wetlands International-Oceania, had undertaken a detailed process to identify candidate wetlands for nomination.

This process had involved consultation with key stakeholders and the preparation of the nomination document that contained details of the features of each of the nominated wetlands along with site maps.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage Dr Sharman Stone said the Commonwealth Government provided most of the funds for the project through the National Wetlands Program of the Natural Heritage Trust.

"I am pleased that nearly $50,000 of funding from the Federal Government's Natural Heritage Trust has helped to protect these unique wetland areas of Western Australia.

"All three of the areas being nominated are of truly international significance and deserve their standing alongside other Ramsar sites both here and overseas," she said

Mrs Edwardes said Becher Point, for example, was distinctive in that it is one of the youngest wetland systems on the Swan Coastal Plain.

"This wetland was formed only in the past 4500 years and consequently, it has particular significance in terms of research interest in the evolution of wetlands," she said.

"Lake Gore is habitat for almost one-third of the world's population of hooded plovers and 10 per cent of the global population of banded stilts. It also is a drought refuge for many thousands of other waterbirds.

"The Muir-Byenup system includes numerous lakes and swamps. This complex is also a natural diversity recovery catchment under the State Salinity Strategy.

"As well as providing habitat for tens of thousands of waterbirds - more than 51,000 individual birds have been recorded in a single survey - it has almost 650 species of native plants, many of them rare."

Mrs Edwardes said the State Government had further strengthened its commitment to wetland conservation by allocating an additional $250,000 a year to CALM for wetland conservation activities.

The nominations also fulfilled commitments under the Wetlands Conservation Policy for Western Australia that was released in 1997.

This policy committed the Government to the conservation and restoration of wetlands, establishing wetland conservation reserves and maintaining wetland biodiversity, particularly the abundance of waterbirds, and to raising public awareness and enjoyment of the many values of wetlands.

Dr Stone said that the Western Australian Government would now have more Ramsar listed wetland sites than any other Australian State and Territory.

"This announcement shows the determination of both the Western Australian and Federal Governments to preserve and protect our important wetland areas."

Mrs Edwardes acknowledged the support of the local government authorities for the nominations. She also paid tribute to the development company, Cedar Woods, that had provided an area of the Creery Wetlands to be incorporated into the Peel-Yalgorup Ramsar site.

Media contacts: Steve Manchee (Minister Edwardes) on 9421 7777 or 0408 051 772; Simon Frost (Dr Stone) on 0419 495 468; Keiran McNamara (CALM) on 9442 0335 or Dr Jim Lane (CALM) on 9752 1677

Commonwealth of Australia