National

Japan adds Miyagi and Tokyo sites to list of internationally important wetlands

Kyodo

Japan has designated two coastal areas to be of international importance, raising the number of such sites around the country to 52, the only international conservationist body focused on wetlands said Thursday.

Seen as key habitats for waterfowl and other creatures, Shizugawa Bay in Miyagi Prefecture and Kasai Marine Park in Tokyo were recognized for their conservation value based on the 1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

Japan joined the treaty in 1980 and Kushiro Marsh in Hokkaido became the country’s first Ramsar site that year.

Shizugawa Bay, characterized by its steep, rocky coastline, is home to more than 500 species of marine creatures that live on abundant seaweeds and seagrass. Brent geese, designated as a natural monument of Japan, spend the winter there.

Kasai Marine Park, a brackish wetland in Tokyo Bay created to restore the natural ecosystem which was lost due to land reclamation, has become “an example of coexisting natural and urban environments,” the convention said.

Along with the new registrations, Japan has extended the designated area near the city of Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture, which is a breeding and feeding area of Oriental white storks. The total size has roughly been doubled to 1,094 hectares.

Last month, the Ramsar Convention urged policymakers around the world to do more to protect wetlands as they reported such sites have disappeared by 35 percent between 1970 and 2015 — a rate three times that of forests — due to climate change and other causes.

While the global outlook report did not look at individual nations, the Ramsar Convention has mentioned that Japan recognizes the importance of wetlands and is attentive to conservation efforts.

The Ramsar Convention has been ratified by 90 percent of U.N. members, including major polluters such as the United States and China. Since coming into force in 1975, it has designated more than 2,300 sites of international importance.