The Star Late Edition - - METRO -


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.

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