Press Release: The impacts human activities have on watersheds, rivers, mangroves, coral reefs, and other types of wetlands, is the message behind planned celebrations of global wetland conservation in the coming weeks.

Annual celebrations of World Wetlands Day on the second day of February mark the day the Convention on Wetlands was signed in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971. The event was first celebrated in 1997 and provides an opportunity to raise and strengthen awareness of the importance of wetlands throughout the world and in the Pacific islands region.

According to SPREP's Associate Ramsar Officer, Vainuupo Jungblut, the theme for global celebrations in 2009 of "Upstream-Downstream: Wetlands connect us all" is particularly relevant to the Pacific islands.

Presently, river catchments of the Pacific Islands region are under increasing pressure from conversion for agriculture, diversion or modification for water supply or hydropower generation, commercial logging, catchment alteration, pollution and invasive species. At the national level, there is often a lack of knowledge and/or relevant strategies for the management and wise use of these wetland ecosystems. Furthermore, local communities are often unaware of the likely impacts of proposed changes to these wetlands.

"Now more than ever there is a real need for integrated 'ridge-to-reef'management approaches given the fragility of these precious ecosystems of our Pacific islands," Jungblut stated.

"Unsustainable land use practices in and around watersheds and rivers of some high Islands have led to increased erosion, decreased water quality, and runoff that adversely affect coastal and marine ecosystems and species that are important for both commercial and subsistence purposes. The public needs to understand the link between cause and effect," Jungblut explained.

SPREP will continue to assist Fiji, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, and Samoa as parties to the Ramsar Convention, as well as other Pacific island countries and territories, address local wetland issues and priorities.

Contact Name: Vainuupo Jungblut
Phone: (685) 21929
Fax: (685) 20231