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First AEWA Lesser White-fronted Goose International Working Group Meeting held in Helsinki

Bonn, 15 December 2010 - Coordinated international efforts for the conservation of the Western Palearctic population of the Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus) got off to a good start in Helsinki, Finland at the first ever Meeting of the AEWA Lesser White-fronted Goose International Working Group. The meeting took place at the Finnish Ministry of the Environment on the 30th of November and 1st of December.

The International Working Group was convened by the UNEP/AEWA Secretariat in 2009 and is the inter-governmental body responsible for coordinating and guiding the implementation of the International Single Species Action Plan for the Lesser White-fronted Goose (SSAP) adopted at the 4th Meeting of the Parties to AEWA in Madagascar in 2008.

The meeting was attended by representatives from 16 of the 22 LWfG range states: Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Norway, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, and Ukraine. In addition experts from BirdLife International, FACE, Wetlands International and the UK’s Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) took part in the meeting as observers to the group.

The group first discussed and agreed on the chairmanship of the Working Group, Terms of Reference and a format for national reporting. It was decided that the UNEP/AEWA Secretariat, represented by AEWA Technical Officer, Mr. Sergey Dereliev will serve as interim Chair until the next Working Group meeting planned for autumn 2012, where it is expected that one of the range states will take over the rotating chairmanship. The group will strive to hold face-to-face meetings every two years dependent on available funding. Meetings should, however, take place at least every three years. National reports will therefore be submitted to the UNEP/AEWA Secretariat bi-annually – three months before the next meeting at the latest. Following a proposal by the Chair, financial support for meeting attendance and for implementation measures for eligible range states will be coupled with the timely submission of national reports.  

The range states then broke off into two groups (European flyway and Eastern flyway) for discussions on prioritizing activities outlined in the SSAP for immediate implementation during the next two years. Range states were then encouraged to pick out five activities that were seen as crucial for the species in their country. The level of knowledge of the species and respectively the level of conservation measures being implemented varies greatly between the individual range states. While some countries have National Action Plans in place for the LWfG and are, for example, taking measures to control predation, human disturbance and habitat loss, other countries still lack information on key sites and occurrence of the species.

With the exception of the breeding grounds, hunting remains the most severe threat to the species in most of the range states. There is an urgent need for range states to consider new ways of cooperation with local hunters, including the banning of hunting of Greater White-fronted Geese at key LWfG sites. The establishment of voluntary early warning systems was also discussed, where information on the movements of migrating LWfG would be passed on to local hunting organizations urging hunters in the area to exercise caution. This approach has worked very well in Finland.

The identified priority activities will serve as the basis for further work and will also be targeted when attempting to obtain external funding for conservation activities. Priority activities will be reassessed at the next working group meeting based on the implementation progress made so far.

At the request of several range states, the Working Group also agreed on its first recommendations, highlighting amongst other things the need for range state governments to ensure adequate legal protection of the species, to establish and implement National Action Plans for the species and to cooperate with other range states to develop joint activities for implementation.

The group also had a brainstorming session on monitoring which produced a broad outline of a common monitoring scheme which will be further developed by a drafting group consisting of Finland, Germany, Kazakhstan, Norway, BirdLife International and WWT.

Funding – or rather the lack thereof - was in general deemed to be the key to future implementation efforts. Many range states lack national funding possibilities for key nature conservation activities such as annual monitoring and the protection of key sites. It was agreed that the LWfG Coordinator, based at the UNEP/AEWA Secretariat, will assist range states in trying to locate possible sources of funding.

A website for the Working Group is in the making which will include an internal workspace where national representatives, experts and observers can exchange information and discuss working group issues during the inter-sessional periods between meetings. The Secretariat aims to have both website and workspace up and running at the beginning of 2011. The meeting was hosted by the Finnish Ministry of the Environment and the main funds were made available by the Norwegian Directorate for Nature Management.

All meeting documents can be found on the AEWA website.

For more information please contact: Ms. Nina Mikander (nmikander@unep.de), Coordinator for the Lesser White-fronted Goose

More information can also be found on the Milvous Group Website