The 8th Session of Meeting of the Parties (MOP8) to the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) is taking place between 26-30 September 2022 in Budapest, Hungary. This MOP is special in many aspects for me. First, it is taking place in my home country where I started working on nature conservation more than 30 years ago. It was good to see many of my former colleagues playing important roles at the statutory and civil nature conservation organisations and they have proven to be an excellent host of the meeting. Second, this MOP should have taken place a year earlier, but was postponed due to the COVID pandemic. Last, but not least, it was an important decision-making moment, and Wetlands International has contributed to a lot of the meeting documents. Wetlands International Europe was represented by Szabolcs Nagy, our Biodiversity Manager, Laura Dami, the coordinator of the Mediterranean Waterbird Network at Tour du Valat, Chris Rostron of the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust.
Updating Table 1 of AEWA
One of the most important decisions of the MOP was the amendment of the Table 1 of the Agreement (Resolution 2). This builds on the population status assessments Wetlands International has compiled and is available on our Waterbird Population Estimates Portal for each AEWA population. Contrary to the more static international treaties such as the Bern Convention or the Birds Directive, regular amendments of Table 1 of AEWA ensures that the management of waterbird populations adapts to their status. The International Waterbird Census coordinated by Wetlands International Europe in collaboration with the African-Eurasian Waterbird Monitoring Partnership is an important source of information for this update.
Strengthening the monitoring of waterbirds and their key sites
Wetlands International Europe, together with BirdLife International and SOVON, the Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology, have produced two important meeting documents: one on Waterbird Monitoring Priorities and another on a Monitoring Framework for the AEWA Flyway Site Network. These documents were approved by Resolutions 5 and 6 respectively. In addition, Resolution 5 has also endorsed the possible synergies with other conservation instruments developed by representative of Wetlands International in the AEWA Technical Committee, it has also urged Contracting Parties and other donors to provide financial contributions through the Waterbird Fund or other existing international flyway monitoring funding mechanisms. Concerning the AEWA Flyway Site Network, 41% of the countries have nominated their sites, and the MOP has requested the Secretariat to work with Wetlands International and BirdLife International on integrating the nominated sites into the Critical Site Network Tool.
New AEWA guidance documents
The meeting has also adopted a number of guidelines documents with Resolution 8 including the Revised Conservation Guidelines No. 1 on the Preparation of National Single Species Action Plans for Migratory Waterbirds, on Addressing the Risk of Accidental Shooting of Look-alike Species of Waterbirds and the Complementary Guidelines on Climate Change Adaptation Measures for Waterbirds with significant input from Wetlands International.
A disappointing end for the action plan for Lesser White-fronted Goose
A deeply disappointing news was that the EU delegation has proposed terminating the AEWA Single Species Action Plan for the Lesser White-fronted Goose. (Resolution 4). Szabolcs Nagy has made the following statement:
“International species action plans are to facilitate that range states and other stakeholder reach agreement on the best course of conservation action and coordinate their actions of the whole flyway. The AEWA/EU International Single Species Action Plan for the Lesser White-fronted Goose has been revolutionary in the history of AEWA because it was the first plan with an AEWA International Species Working Group bringing together governments and experts. It was the first and so far the only plan with a dedicated coordinator at the AEWA Secretariat. That capacity has proven to be crucial to elevate the species action planning work at AEWA to a completely new level. The existence of that action plan has not only put the Norwegian breeding population (which is about 2/3 of the EU population) of the Lesser White-fronted Goose on a recovery path, but it has also helped the 28,000 – 40,000 birds in the Western Main Population and served as an entry card of AEWA to countries like Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia of which only one, Uzbekistan, is a party to AEWA and Turkmenistan will join as a result of the existence of the plan.
On the other hand, it is regrettable that European countries have failed to reach an agreement how to deal with the birds breeding in Sweden, representing less than a third of the EU wintering population and less than 1% of all Lesser White-fronted Geese in the Agreement Area. I am deeply disappointed that this failure has resulted in terminating a plan for all AEWA populations, despite of the recommendation of the AEWA Technical Committee which is reflected in the original text. I fear that replacing an AEWA action plan with a far less prestigious conservation guidance instrument, without a coordination mechanism and capacity in the Western Main Population will result in a setback also in that population representing 97% of the birds in the Agreement Area. This is what is called throwing out the baby with the bath water. Thank you, Mr. Chair, for allowing me to share my feelings about the proposal of the EU“.
Responding to the drought event in the Western Palearctic
Wetlands International has managed to convince the UK delegation to call for emergency measures in response for the extreme drought of 2022 that can possibly negatively affect waterbird populations in Resolution 15. The proposal was supported also by the EU delegation.
Our member, Tour du Valat has hosted the side event of the Mediterranean Waterbird Network, which was very timely as it highlighted the gaps in the Mediterranean protected area network based on the data from the International Waterbird Census.
Szabolcs Nagy has also joined a side event on network connectivity along the East Atlantic Flyway organised by the RSPB and he has presented the Critical Site Network Tool.
Tim Dodman and Abdoulaye N’Diaye, both Associate Experts of Wetlands International, have talked in the side event on the Wadden Sea Flyway Initiative.
In a parallel session, our member, the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, has co-organised a side event on lead poisoning.