Press Release - A new draft three-year action plan has been developed outlining activities, responsibilities and targets that seek to promote and strengthen the wise use and conservation of wetlands in the region.

The new Regional Wetlands Action Plan for the Pacific Islands follows on from the original Regional Wetlands Action Plan endorsed by members of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in 1999. The new action plan covers the period 2011-2013 and is expected to be finalised this month.

The three-year action plan was developed during a regional workshop which was held in August in Noumea, New Caledonia to review the implementation of the 1999 Regional Wetlands Action Plan. It preceded a series of training sessions on implementation processes of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands for contracting parties and accession procedures for non-contracting parties.

A total of 13 Pacific island countries and territories participated.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an international agreement that commits parties to the conservation and wise use of their wetlands. There are currently five Pacific island countries that are parties to this Convention - Fiji, Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Samoa. Tonga, Niue and Kiribati are expected to join very soon.

In the Pacific, wetlands are critical to the livelihood of families and communities. They have an immense value in providing fish and other foods, as well as supply a vast range of products such as building materials, handicrafts, medicines, cosmetics and ornamentation for Pacific peoples. For our region, the conservation and wise use of wetlands is also of global significance given that they contain among the largest variety of plants and animals in the world.

This important three year action plan to conserve our wetlands will be circulated widely once it is finalised and the implementation of this plan will be carried out through coordination between national governments, SPREP and its regional and international partners.

While the new three-year plan action plan was the key outcome of the workshop, there were also other benefits that arose from the gathering.

There was the sharing of experiences and exchange of information between participants on national issues, challenges and priorities relating to the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. There is also now a better understanding of the benefits and required steps for joining the Ramsar Convention, as well as a better understanding of implementation issues, processes and procedures for the contracting parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Further to that the participants attending were also able to learn about conservation measures, lessons and initiatives in New Caledonia and could make new contacts with French experts working in this field.

The event was made possible through the generous financial support from the Governments of France, Australia, United States and Norway, and was hosted by Government of New Caledonia and was co-organised by SPREP and the Ramsar Convention Secretariat.

The workshop was held at the headquarters of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in Nouméa and engaged representatives from Pacific islands countries and territories that were Contracting Party, and non-Contracting Party to the Ramsar Convention, i.e. Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna. In addition, there were representatives from regional organisations, Non Government Organisations and Universities.