Bonn Convention - The Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA)


Many waterbird species migrate huge distances throughout their annual cycles. They require good habitat for breeding as well as networks of suitable sites to support them along their migration routes. On a global scale, there are several major flyway systems linking arctic and north temperate breeding areas with more southerly wintering or non-breeding areas. In the Western Palearctic, waterbirds migrate south from as far west as the eastern Canadian arctic and Greenland, and from central Siberia in the east. These birds move south in autumn, through Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East to spend the non-breeding season in Africa. Other flyways link North America with South America, and central and eastern Siberia with South Asia, South-east Asia and Australasia. In all these regions, efforts are being made to coordinate the conservation of migratory waterbirds and their wetland habitats at international scales. In the Africa-Eurasia region, an intergovernmental treaty assists in this process.


The Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) was concluded in The Hague, the Netherlands in 1995 and entered into force in November 1999. AEWA covers 255 species of birds ecologically dependent on wetlands for at least part of their annual cycle, with a geographic area encompassing 118 countries from Europe, parts of Asia and Canada, the Middle East and Africa.  As of November 2008 there were 62 countries and the European Union that have become Contracting Parties to the Agreement.


The Agreement provides for coordinated and concerted actions to be taken by the Range States throughout the migration systems of the waterbirds to which it applies. Parties to the Agreement are called upon to engage in a wide range of conservation actions which are described in a comprehensive Action Plan. This detailed plan addresses such key issues as species and habitat conservation, management of human activities, research and monitoring, education and information, and implementation. One of the fundamental activities undertaken is a regular review of the status of each migratory waterbird population within the Agreement area.


The UK ratified AEWA in 1999. A UK Implementation Plan has been published, highlighting existing and proposed UK activity that will contribute to the aims of the Agreement. The UK's legal obligations for the protection of endangered migratory waterbird species are implemented by means of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended), and the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (as amended). There is also provision for the protection of sites important for waterbird species (including Special Protection Areas (SPAs) classified under the EC Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds, and UK wetlands designated under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands). The legal status of these internationally important sites is strengthened by the Conservation (Natural Habitats & c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended), the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats & c.) Regulations 2007 (as amended) and the Conservation (Natural Habitats & c.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended).


Other activities which support the Agreement's implementation include national bird monitoring schemes (such as the Wetland Bird Survey, the Breeding Bird Survey and Rare Breeding Birds Panel), waterbird research, management of human activities such as hunting, and implementation of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP), which involves action for a number of waterbird species and the habitats which support them. Significant restoration is envisaged through the UKBAP process for a number of the wetland habitats on which waterbirds depend. The UK also participates in a number of international species conservation initiatives, including flyway management plans and European Union Species Action Plans.


JNCC advises Government on the implementation of AEWA both within the UK and internationally and attends AEWA meetings in a technical support and advisory role. JNCC drafted the UK's AEWA Implementation Plan and promotes the uptake of the desirable actions there identified. To this end, it manages a range of relevant research and surveys together with a number of other organisations. In particular, it is a partner in the UK's main waterbird monitoring scheme, the Wetland Bird Survey (together with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, the British Trust for Ornithology and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). It has recently published a comprehensive assessment of the extent to which each UK waterbird population is protected by the UK's national network of SPAs.


JNCC works with a range of counterpart national bodies in other parts of the Agreement area on a variety of issues related to the conservation of migratory waterbirds.


June 2013