New important wetland area designated in Jamaica

New important wetland area designated in Jamaica

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

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THE Mason River Protected Area (MRPA) in Clarendon has been designated as a wetland of international significance, bringing to four the number of sites so defined under a international treaty to which Jamaica is a signatory.

This was revealed at a meeting of parties to the Ramsar Convention which is currently underway in Kingston.

The Convention on Wetlands or Ramsar Convention is an intergovernmental treaty which commits member countries to maintaining the ecological character of their wetlands of international importance and to plan for their "wise use", or sustainable use.

Wetlands are of great value in that they maintain healthy river basins and facilitate water purification; support fisheries grazing and agriculture, are and habitat for endangered plants and animals; and provide opportunities for ecotourism and education.

More than 60 delegates from 32 countries are attending the fifth meeting on the Pan American Region of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, which opened yesterday and runs until Friday.

Speaking at the opening, Minister of Housing, Environment, Water and Local Government Dr Horace Chang underscored the importance of the environment to the Government.

"The four policy pillars that this Government revolves around are economy, energy, education and environment," Dr Chang said.

The minister reminded the gathering of Jamaica's other three Ramsar sites namely the Black River Lower Morass in St Elizabeth; the Palisadoes/Port Royal protected area in Kingston; and the Portland Bight wetland and cays protected area off the coast of Clarendon.

Some of the activities being undertaken to protect these areas include a water quality response programme geared at reducing the time taken to respond to reports of pollution of the Black River; monitoring activities for sea turtle nesting, coral reefs and beach erosion at Palisadoes/Port Royal; and monitoring of coral reefs and water birds at Portland Bight.

Located close to the border of St Ann and east of Kellits in Clarendon, the MRPA has become Jamaica's only inland Ramsar site.

Declared a protected area under the NRCA Act in 2002, it is an area of significant floral biodiversity with a number of endemic and rare species.It is managed by the Natural History Division of the Institute of Jamaica.

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