Conservation Funded for Azov-Black Sea Flyways

WASHINGTON, DC, January 22, 2002 (ENS) - Deteriorating conditions for millions of migratory waterbirds that overwinter in the Azov-Black Sea coastal ecological corridor or fly through the Mediterranean en route to Africa are set to improve. These wetland and marine ecosystems spanning the northwestern shore of the Black Sea are threatened by habitat loss, pollution, and inadequate monitoring and protection.

The World Bank today approved implementation of a US$6.9 million project to conserve biodiversity in this ecological corridor. The capacity building project is funded by a Global Environment Facility grant.

Azov Sea

The Sea of Azov, rich with fish, lies between the Crimean Peninsula to the west, the eastern Ukrainian coast to the north, and the north Caucasus to the east. It is connected to the Black Sea by Kerch Strait. (Satellite photo courtesy NASA)
Ukrainian territory represents 37 percent of the Black and Azov Sea coasts and includes the most diverse and extensive coastal wetland and nearshore marine habitats in the Black Sea region. With an estimated population of seven million, it is one of the most densely populated regions of Ukraine.

The newly funded project will promote improved protection and sustainable use of over 250,000 hectares (618,000 acres) of wetlands on the Black and Azov Sea coasts. The region is a mosaic of agricultural lands, factories, internationally important wetland and marine communities, and major population centers.

There are two major Black Sea migratory waterbird flyways. One is an east-west flyway spans the northwestern shelf of the Black Sea, and is used by waterbirds enroute to wintering habitats in the western Black Sea, along the Adriatic Sea, and Africa.

A north-south flyway crosses the Crimean peninsula and the Black Sea to Africa. The marshes, lagoons, and mudflats in the eastern part of the project region, where these two flyways intersect, are a critical link in both flyways.

These wetlands are also critical to species that migrate in a dispersed pattern rather than along defined flyways such as the curlew sandpiper, which rely on these wetlands in their migrations between Scandinavia and the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa.

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Birds fly over the Black Sea at sunset. (Photo courtesy Laryssa Czebiniak)
Project activities are aimed at reducing soil and nutrient runoff from farms to adjoining Wetlands of International Importance designated under the Ramsar Convention, and building the capacity of nongovernment organizations (NGOs), local communities and government agencies to improve environmental protection programs.

The project aims to improve the performance and transparency of the Ukrainian Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and other governmental organizations engaged in the management of coastal natural resources, and promote regional cooperation to support adequate management of the international flyways.

It will be implemented through the Ministry for Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety based in Kiev.

The role of the private sector in establishment or management of protected areas will be demonstrated through pilot projects using conservation easements and other incentives for conserving ecologically important lands.

Conncessions for reserve management may be awarded to local and international NGOs capable of obtaining private financial support to cover recurring costs.

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Industrial facilities on the Azov Sea (Photo courtesy Ukrainian Ministry for Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety)
Concessions or titles for lands to be used for ecotourism may be awarded if the permittees can maintain an overall conservation objective, and private hunting reserves may be established if they can be demonstrated to be compatible with overall conservation objectives and wildlife population sustainability.

Successful examples of these approaches, the World Bank said in a 1998 preparatory document, include the Nature Conservancy's Parks in Peril Program in Latin America and its programs for creating conservation easements in the United States, and Ducks Unlimited's experience with mainstreaming waterfowl conservation within agricultural landscapes in North America.

The total cost of the project is US$16.5 million, including funding from Ukrainian government and local governments, local stakeholders, and the governments of Denmark, the UK, the Netherlands, and the United States. Also contributing are multilateral donors such as the World Wide Fund for Nature, and TACIS, the European Community's granting program for the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.