Friday, February 12, 2010

Estuaries of Bahía San Jorge are included in the International Convention of Wetlands, Ramsar as wetlands of International Importance


-by Hem Nalini Morzaria Luna

As part of the celebration of World Wetlands Day on February 2nd, the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, announced the addition of the wetlands at Bahía San Jorge as one of seven new sites in the List of Wetlands of International Importance of the Ramsar Convention in 2010.

During the memorial ceremony on the island of San Pedro, in Yuriria, Guanajuato, the Secretary said that with this designation Mexico is now second in the world, behind only the United Kingdom, in the number of Ramsar sites it currently has. One hundred and thirty one sites exist and cover a total surface of eight million, 915 thousand, 433.7 hectares. The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty, which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation on the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. Mexico joined the Convention on November 4, 1986.

The wetlands of Bahía San Jorge extend over more than 35 linear kilometers of coastline, from the northern tip of Estero Almejas to the southern tip of Estero San Francisquito. This Ramsar site brings together a combination of habitats, marshes, low intertidal mud, salt marshes, coastal dunes, sandy beaches, permanent shallow marine waters and wetland-terrestrial interface, connecting the earth system with one of the most productive marine systems world, the Gulf of California, and are in turn connected to the Sonoran Desert.

Currently, this area is of great importance for fisheries and aquaculture production, and for species, such as octopus, shrimp, and crab. Like other estuaries in the region, Bahía San Jorge’s wetlands serve as nesting, resting and feeding grounds for migratory and resident birds that are part of the Pacific Flyway, including species like the least tern, the American oystercatcher and avanna sparrow. The canals and marshes of the site serve as refuge and feeding areas for the larval and juvenile stages of fish and invertebrates, and as well as for feeding grounds for marine species. Bahía San Jorge also hosts a resident population of the bottlenose dolphin, an endangered species. There are also endemic species not found anywhere else in the world there, like the fisher myotis bat.

The declaration of Bahía San Jorge’s wetlands as “Wetlands of International Importance” increases support for sustainable use. This declaration helps protect its ecological integrity, while continuing to maintain important ecological functions and environmental services like the fisheries productivity and nutrient budget. According to the Intercultural Center for the Studies of Deserts and Oceans, CEDO, “it is very important that the ejidos could take advantage of this designation”, so they recommend “to work together with them in order to look for economic and ecologic improvements”. The benefits of the conservation of this and other wetlands are very important for the fisheries and aquaculture of the region.

For more information contact Andrea Cuellar (Coastal Conservation Coordinator at CEDO) at andrea@cedointercultural.org or call 638-382-0113 in Puerto Peñasco, Sonora.

www.cedointercultural.org

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