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Publications archive - Biodiversity


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy: 1996-2000

Wetlands International - Asia Pacific
International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau - Japan Committee (IWRB-J), 1996
ISBN 983 9663 18 6

Note: This publication has been superseded by Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy: 2001-2005

2. Background

2.1 The geographic region

Using the information available on distribution of waterbird populations during and outside the breeding seasons, the globe can be divided into three major regions, with some overlapping areas:

Conservation of migratory waterbirds in North America is being developed under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and throughout the entire Americas by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN).

In June 1995, 54 countries from Africa, Europe and Asia Minor signed the final Act of an Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS or Bonn Convention).

At present, a framework for the conservation of migratory waterbirds in the Asia-Pacific region is partially provided by several bilateral migratory bird agreements and international conventions such as the Ramsar Convention. As yet there is no multilateral migratory waterbird agreement comparable to AEWA or WHSRN for the flyways in this region.

This Strategy addresses major migratory waterbird conservation issues in the Asia-Pacific region and broadly covers the breeding, staging and non-breeding areas of migratory birds using its flyways. It covers the Asian continent east of the Ural mountains and Sea of Azov, south to the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf across all the countries of Asia and the former Soviet Union, to Alaska (USA), Australasia, and island countries and territories of the Pacific Ocean east to the Pitcairn Islands (United Kingdom) as presented in Map 1. A list of nations and territories in the region is included in Annex 2. The boundaries also complement the geographical coverage of the waterbird conservation initiatives in the other two regions.

Map 1. Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy: implementation area

2.2 Flyways in the Asia-Pacific

In the Asia-Pacific region, as in the other parts of the world, there is evidence of migration in a general north-south orientation. For the long-distance migrants, especially migratory shorebirds, three flyways are recognized, based on biological and geopolitical considerations (Map 2). From west to east these are:

However, the detailed picture of migration within the Asia-Pacific region is complex, as different species and populations vary considerably in their migration strategies.

There is considerable overlap between the flyway areas, especially at northern latitudes where the birds breed. Several populations do not follow these general flyways and spend the non-breeding period in areas covered by two or more flyways. Thus a conservation approach that encompasses the entire geographic region is needed to achieve long-term conservation.

Map 2. Major waterbird flyways in the Asia-Pacific region

2.3 Migratory waterbirds

Migratory populations include species in which the entire population or a significant proportion of its members (> 1%) cyclically and predictably crosses one or more national jurisdictional boundaries.

The Strategy adopts the Ramsar Convention definition for waterbirds: "birds ecologically dependent on wetlands" in its broadest sense. Twenty families of waterbirds are accepted under the Ramsar definition and these are listed in Table 2. Details on populations and their migratory status will be covered in species group action plans.

2.4. Present policy and legislation

Across the region there is a variety of national policies and legislative measures for the conservation of migratory waterbirds. These include regulations on the capture and transfer of birds, designation of game birds and regulations on hunting periods and bag numbers. The level of enforcement of legislation ranges from comprehensive to negligible. The reasons for the shortcomings in enforcement include the lack of trained staff, inadequate budget allocations to enforce legislation, poor public awareness and poverty.

Table 2. Waterbird families included in the Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Strategy
Taxonomic Group English Name
Gaviidae Loons
Podicipedidae Grebes
Phalacrocoracidae Cormorants
Pelecanidae Pelicans
Ardeidae Herons,Egrets and Bitterns
Ciconiidae Storks
Threskiornithidae Ibises and Spoonbills
Phoenicopteridae Flamingos
Anatidae Swans, Geese and Ducks
Gruidae Cranes
Rallidae Rails, Gallinules and Coots
Heliornithidae Finfoots
Jacanidae Jacanas
Dromadidae Crab Plover
Haematopodidae Oystercatchers
Recurvirostridae Stilts and Avocet
Glareolidae Pratincoles
Charadriidae Plovers
Scolopacidae Sandpipers
Laridae Gulls, Terns and Skimmer

Note: Collectively, shorebirds include jacanas, crab plover, oystercatchers, stilts and avocet, pratincoles, plovers and sandpipers.

In all countries there exists national policy and legislation on land ownership; policy and legislation related to the sound management and designation of important wetlands as conservation areas has been developed in a few countries. Implementation of conservation measures in accordance with national laws to regulate development activities within and outside designated areas is rarely achieved, especially where such laws conflict with local interests or short- or long-term national development plans.

For the conservation of migratory species and their habitats, a flyway approach is needed to the harmonization of legislation.

2.5 Present conservation activities

With respect to present conservation activities, government agencies in some countries and territories are undertaking independent activities, such as designation of protected habitats, regulation of hunting and related activities, improvement of habitats, studies on the breeding, feeding and migration ecology of waterbirds, and activities to increase education and public awareness.

Several international non-governmental organizations have been involved in waterbird and wetland conservation in the Asia-Pacific region. The most active organizations include:

In particular, Wetlands International has been among the driving forces in Asia behind an effort to promote the networking of research and awareness activities. Coordinated information collection and research efforts have resulted in the production of the Directory of Wetlands in Oceania (in collaboration with SPREP), several national wetland directories, and coordination of the annual Asian Waterfowl Census. In addition, several international and national training courses, workshops and conferences on wetland study and waterbird identification and monitoring techniques have been held in the region. The Directory of Asian Wetlands has been published by the IUCN, IWRB, WWF and BirdLife International.

The Wild Bird Society of Japan and Wetlands International-Asia Pacific have been instrumental in the production of the Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. In addition, Red Data Books which will include waterbird species, are being produced, with BirdLife International and IUCN acting as lead agencies. WWF has been working in different countries in the region to increase people's awareness of the value for conservation through training and field projects and education programmes. All these activities promote the collection and sharing of basic information relevant to waterbird- and habitat conservation.

Cooperative projects are being pursued in several nations based on bilateral treaties for the conservation of migratory waterbirds and their habitats. Plans have been developed for a network of sites, mainly in the East Asian-Australasian flyway.

2.6 International conservation conventions/agreements

There are four international conventions and several bilateral agreements that are relevant to the conservation of migratory waterbirds and their habitats in the Asia-Pacific region. The four inter-governmental international conventions are:

Membership of these conventions by countries and territories in the Asia-Pacific region is growing as more nations recognise the need for conservation, including that of migratory waterbirds and their habitats, and the potential of the conventions to achieve this (Annex 3). Nine bilateral agreements, with three more under discussion, deal with the conservation of migratory birds in the Asia-Pacific region (Table 3).

In addition, at least six regional inter-governmental and non-governmental initiatives provide frameworks for international cooperation for the conservation of nature, natural resources and the environment. These initiatives can be encouraged to include issues related to conservation of migratory waterbirds and their habitats.

The initiatives are:

Table 3. Bilateral agreements on the conservation of migratory birds In the Asia-Pacific region
P.R. of China
P.R. of Korea


D.P.R. of Korea