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The Montreaux Record: Saving Essential Wetlands

Contamination, deforestation and accelerating urban growth pose serious threats to the health of the world’s wetlands. No tool aimed at protecting these valuable ecosystems should be wasted.

The Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental treaty, promotes national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. The 168 countries that signed the Convention inscribe ecologically essential wetlands within their boundaries on the List of Wetlands of International Importance. By doing so, nations become obligated to protect these sites. Sometimes, however, their commitment is not enough to ensure that ecosystems remain intact.

For this reason, the Ramsar Convention created the Montreux Record, a tool to protect, as a manner of priority, wetlands that are or will be gravely threatened by technological development, pollution or human activity. The Record includes sites that are listed as Wetlands of International Importance.

Far from being a blacklist or a negative mark for a country, the registry is an opportunity for governments to demonstrate their accountability for protecting natural resources that require urgent attention.

Five primary points demonstrate the importance and effectiveness of this tool:

  1. Cooperation for Conservation
    By including a wetland in the Montreaux Record, a country calls attention to the importance of taking measures to conserve the ecological characteristics of the site through national and international cooperation.

  2. Prioritization
    The Montreaux Record is a quick way for countries to assign high priority to a wetland site and obtain the technical support and financing to conserve it.

  3. Support and Technical Advice
    To obtain this special protection, the government must formally solicit the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention and complete a questionnaire with information about the wetland. If it’s determined that the inclusion of the site on the Record is necessary to promote its adequate protection, Ramsar undertakes an advisory mission to the country to provide support and technical advice on appropriate conservation actions. 

  4. Points for Progress
    The country may request that the wetland be refused registration once the threats that lead to its inclusion are gone, if it considers that the objectives have been met and the site has regained its environmental balance. The country must request a new advisory visit to the site and complete a survey to show the progress made.

  5. Restoring Balance
    The support received by the Ramsar Secretariat adds to the conservation efforts the country is already developing on a national level. Thus, an at-risk wetland under international protection becomes a key site for restoring the ecological balance of the country.

Throughout the Americas, various governments have opted to attract international attention for the conservation of their vulnerable wetlands: Costa Rica has included Palo Verde National Park in the Record, the United States has included Everglades National Park, and Chile has included the Carlos Anwandter Sanctuary.

As part of our participation in the 12th Conference of Parties of the Ramsar Convention, taking place in Uruguay this week, AIDA will advocate for the inclusion of two threatened wetlands in the Montreaux Record: the Panama Bay Wetlands and the Veracruz Reef System, important ecological sites threatened, respectively, by urban development and port expansion.


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