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It is hoped that with further conservation incentives, oiled birds like this Surf Scoter in July 2007, will become less frequently seen. Photo: Brocken Inaglory (
It is hoped that with further conservation incentives, oiled birds like this Surf Scoter in July 2007, will become less frequently seen. Photo: Brocken Inaglory ( image

San Francisco Bay declared Wetland of International Importance

Posted on: 26 Feb 2013

The Ramsar Convention has designated the Californian wader and wildfowl hot-spot as globally significant, hoping to inspire more conservation measures.

Confirming its vital role in the natural health of the hemisphere, San Francisco Bay and Estuary in California, USA has been designated a “Wetland of International Importance” under the Convention on Wetlands, also known as the Ramsar Convention. San Francisco Bay is home to more than 1,000 species of mammals, birds, invertebrates and more than 130 species of fish. The designated site includes the wetlands and open water of nearly 400,000 acres in and around the bay, and encompasses a variety of public and private landowners dedicated to protecting habitat for birds and other wildlife.

“We’ve long known that the bay is of hemispheric importance to migratory shorebirds and waterfowl, and this recognition just solidifies that stature among the international community”, said Andrea Jones, coastal stewardship program director with Audubon California (BirdLife Partner in the USA). “We hope that this will bolster efforts to restore and protect these critically important habitats.”

This designation is the result of nearly four years of work on the part of member organisations of the San Francisco Bay Joint Venture (SFBJV), which coordinates a number of public and non-profit agencies, landowners, and the business community to protect and restore wetlands for migratory birds and other wildlife. Audubon California played an important role drafting the application in conjunction with other partners. The venture calls the bay "perhaps the most biologically significant estuary on the Pacific Coast".

While this new status will not result in further legally-binding protections for wildlife and habitat in the bay, it does focus international pressure to step up conservation efforts and may lead to additional funding for wetland restoration. “This designation should be a source of pride for anyone living in the larger San Francisco Bay Area”, said Beth Huning, Coordinator of the SFBJV. “Despite intense urban pressures, San Francisco Bay nonetheless endures as one of our country’s great natural treasures.”

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (aka Ramsar Convention, after the city in Iran where the original convention took place in 1971) is an intergovernmental treaty that provides a voluntary framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation of wetlands and their resources. Ramsar is the only global environmental treaty that deals with a single ecosystem, and promotes “wise use of all wetlands.” The United States signed the treaty in 1987.

The bay's special designation is based on decades of research from conservation organisations such as PRBO Conservation Science, Audubon California, San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory and the US Geological Service summarised results on common and endangered wildlife, to make a compelling scientific case for this award.

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