Migratory Birds and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)
Migratory birds have inspired poets since the earliest days of literature. Flocks of migrating cranes and geese have, in the northern hemisphere, been regarded as a sign of winter for millennia. However, the phenomenon of bird migration remains incompletely understood and is still subject to intense research efforts. We are only beginning to understand the sophisticated mechanisms that birds use to navigate using information from the sun, stars and the magnetic field of the Earth.
Migratory birds face a multitude of threats during migration. They may fall victim to hazardous weather, lack of food or water, or predators. On top of this, hundreds of millions of migrants are trapped and shot every year in many countries. Staging and wintering areas are often subject to human alteration: forests are being converted to plantations, savannas are affected by desertification, wetlands are drained, converted to agriculture or heavily used by tourists.
The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)
By their very nature, migratory species have become a symbol of the need for international efforts in nature conservation. Migrants can only be effectively conserved if all the range states work together. This idea was behind the creation of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), which was adopted in 1979 in Bonn – hence it is also called the Bonn Convention. The CMS entered into force in 1983 and currently has nearly 100 countries as Contracting Parties. The Convention aims to conserve terrestrial and marine migratory species, including many birds, throughout their range. The Contracting Parties cooperate to conserve migratory species and their habitats by providing strict protection for endangered migratory species, listed on Appendix I, by concluding multilateral agreements for the conservation and management of migratory species, listed in Appendix II, and by undertaking co-operative research activities.
A number of agreements under the CMS are of major relevance to bird conservation. The African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) aims to set up a framework for the conservation of western Palearctic waterbirds. The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) is a major force for the conservation of species threatened by, among other things, death on long line fishing hooks. Other agreements coordinate activities to save individual threatened species such as Siberian Crane, Slender-billed Curlew, Great Bustard and Aquatic Warbler. For details, see the CMS website.
BirdLife and the Convention on Migratory Species
BirdLife has been closely following the Bonn Convention for many years. We have been active at each of the eight three-yearly Conferences of the Parties (COPs), in recent years with a multinational team of BirdLife Partner representatives, and we regularly take a seat at the Convention’s influential Scientific Council. Many amendments to the appendices, as well as formal Conference resolutions, find their origin in BirdLife proposals and activities. We have also been very involved in the development and operation of all of the CMS agreements relevant to birds. In addition, BirdLife has helped to raise the profile of the CMS in other fora such as the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
On the national level, BirdLife Partners have been lobbying their governments to accede to the Convention and its agreements. In many cases, the obligations under the CMS have helped to improve national legislation for threatened species and have stimulated regional cooperation.
Email John O'Sullivan firstname.lastname@example.org