PROTECTING OUR WATERBIRDS
THE KWAZULU-NATAL MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Sihle Zikalala has welcomed more than 300 international delegates at the official opening of the Seventh Session of the Meeting of the Parties to the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA MOP7) in Durban on Tuesday.
The inter-governmental meeting is set to be the most important international conference on the conservation of migratory waterbirds this year, bringing together close to 300 participants from 81 countries, including 67 national delegations and the European Union, a range of non-governmental organisations and renowned experts from across the African-Eurasian region.
The five-day meeting will be an opportunity for governments to agree on actions to improve the conservation status of many species of waterbirds covered by AEWA such as pelicans, cranes, storks, ducks and waders, which face a wide range of threats, including habitat loss and degradation, illegal killing and poisoning, especially by lead gunshot, pollution, climate change, bycatch, as well as collision with powerlines and wind turbines.
MOP7 is held under the theme: “Beyond 2020: shaping flyway conservation for the future” and will cover a plethora of topics related to the future conservation and sustainable use of the 254 species of migratory waterbirds covered by the treaty.
Addressing the conference delegates, MEC Zikalala said South Africa is committed to conservation of waterbirds. “As a country we remain committed to share our expertise and experience with the rest of the Parties towards the realization of the important objective of ensuring that migratory birds do not disappear from our skies.
“Our commitment to enhancing the conservation of the bird species is demonstrated by various initiatives across the country. For instance, there is a partnership between our national power utility, Eskom and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) aimed at developing an integrated management system to minimise incidences of collisions into power lines,” he said.
AEWA lays the legal foundation for international coordinated conservation measures and their implementation is guided by means of a Strategic Plan and a targeted Plan of Action for Africa. Both a new Strategic Plan and a new Plan of Action for Africa for the period 2019 – 2027 – will be presented to Parties for adoption at the conference. Both plans are designed so that their implementation will contribute to achieving the UN Biodiversity Targets and the Sustainable Development Goals.
At MOP7 delegates will also address for the first time, priority actions for seabird conservation. Seabirds are one of the most threatened groups of birds worldwide. To address threats to seabirds such as plastic pollution, oil spills, mining, illegal killing, human disturbance, wind turbines, overfishing, bycatch, invasive predators and climate change, priority actions for seabirds under AEWA will be recommended.
The MEC also highlighted that waterbirds are an important source of revenue for our country. “A 2010 study by the Department of Trade and Industry on Avitourisim indicated that the total size of the Avitourisim market is between 21 000 and 40 000 visitors annually. The DTI study estimated Avitourists’ total spend to be in the region of R 927 million to R 1.725 billion per year with domestic Avitourism spend accounting for between R482m and R890m.”
The conference ends tomorrow.
NOSIPHO Ngcaba, Director General of the Department of Environmental Affairs, Dr Jacques Trouvilliez, Executive Secretary of the AEWA Secretariat and KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Sihle Zikalala.