10 Nov 2015

New agreement for the conservation of South Korea’s top coastal wetland

Geum Estuary is an important site for Far-eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis) Credit Li Zai-ju
By Mike Crosby

BirdLife International and the Government of Seocheon County have signed a new Memorandum of Understanding on the conservation of the Geum Estuary in the Republic of Korea.

The MoU was signed by Mr Pakrae Noh, the Governor of Seocheon County, and Patricia Zurita, BirdLife’s Chief Executive at the BirdLife office in Cambridge, UK on 9 November 2015.

Mr Pakrae Noh, the Governor of Seocheon and Patricia Zurita<BR>at the signing ceremony. Photo: BirdLife InternationalThrough the MOU, BirdLife and Seocheon County have agreed to work together to safeguard the biodiversity of the Geum Estuary. The county government has pursued enlightened policies based around nature-based sustainable development. The BirdLife Partnership will support this through the provision of technical expertise on migratory bird conservation.

The Geum Estuary is now the most important wetland in the Republic of Korea for migrating shorebirds, following the reclamation of the extensive mudflats at nearby Saemangeum. It supports internationally important numbers of 16 shorebird species, including the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper.

We are delighted to sign this agreement with Seocheon County Government to work collaboratively for the conservation and sustainable development of the Geum Estuary,” said Patricia Zurita. “Protecting this site and properly managing the coastal wetlands in the Yellow Sea is vital to maintain the East Asian Australasian Flyway alive. Shorebirds like the Great Knot and Far Eastern Curlew depend on healthy tidal mudflats to recharge and continue their voyage”.

“We are grateful to have the support of a great partner as BirdLife, an organisation that recognises the importance and value of Yubu-do,” said Mr Pakrae Noh. “We look forward to further collaboration with BirdLife in protecting biodiversity and especially the migratory birds that need Geum Estuary. We will strive to strengthen eco-tourism in Seocheon County, with the further support of BirdLife’s expertise”.

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The Geum Estuary is of outstanding importance for Great Knot and Far Eastern Curlew. These species have both been upgraded from Vulnerable to Endangered on the 2015 Red List because of the rapid loss of the intertidal wetlands in the Yellow Sea region of East Asia which they rely on to refuel on their long migrations from the breeding grounds in Eastern Russia to South-East Asia and Australasia.

The Geum Estuary is of outstanding importance for Great Knot and Far Eastern Curlew. Photo: BirdLife InternationalIn addition to its rich wetlands and biodiversity, Seocheon County has a distinctive local cuisine, in particular excellent seafood and the best rice wine in Korea, and a rural village lifestyle. BirdLife is working with the government to developing nature and culture based tourism in the county.

Spike Millington, Chief Executive of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership said “I congratulate the Government of Seocheon County and Birdlife International for signing this MOU to extend their cooperation at this internationally important site, which offers a different perspective on development than the rapid infrastructure expansion model typically associated with the Republic of Korea”.

During their visit to the UK, the mayor and his colleagues from Seocheon County will visit RSPB's Titchwell and Rainham Marshes Nature Reserves, where staff from the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) will showcase the restoration and management of the wetlands, and the benefits of the reserve to visitors and the local community.

The Geum Estuary is a very important wetland for migratory birds (and for birdwatching!). Photo: Becky Rush / BirdLife International