The Ramsar Convention

The convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, known as the Ramsar convention, provides the framework for conservation of the world’s wetlands. The treaty was first held in Ramsar, Iran in 1971 and meets every three years in Gland, Switzerland. Today, 106 nations are members of the treaty. As members, each must designate wetlands of international importance for inclusion in a list of “Ramsar sites”. Each nation must maintain the ecological character of their listed Ramsar sites, plan to ensure wise use of all of wetlands in their territory, and designate wetlands as nature reserves. There are more than 900 Ramsar sites covering more than 97 million hectares of wetland habitat world wide.

Canada joined the conference in 1981 and has designated 35 Ramsar sites. These sites are managed by Federal agencies including the Canadian Wildlife Service, National Capital Commission and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Some sites are protected under provincial law while others are on private land. Ramsar defines protected areas as any marsh, fen, peatland or water that are restricted to a 2 metre water depth or do not exceed 6 metres at low tide. These areas include both natural and artificial, permanent or temporary, static or flowing, and fresh, brackish and salt waters.