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Ramsar Convention

Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance that have been designated under the criteria of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands for containing representative, rare or unique wetland types or for their importance in conserving biological diversity.

Convention summary

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (‘Ramsar Convention’ or ‘Wetlands Convention’) was adopted in Ramsar, Iran in February 1971 and came into force in December 1975. It provides the only international mechanism for protecting sites of global importance and is thus of key conservation significance.

The Convention covers all aspects of wetland conservation and ‘wise use’. It has three main 'pillars' of activity:

  • the designation of wetlands of international importance as Ramsar sites;
  • the promotion of the wise use of all wetlands in the territory of each country; and
  • international co-operation with other countries to further the wise use of wetlands and their resources.

Current details of Contracting Parties to the Convention, and the number and extent of Ramsar sites designated globally, are available from the Ramsar Homepage.

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Implementation in the UK, Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies

The UK ratified the Ramsar Convention and designated its first Ramsar sites in 1976. The UK's ratification also extends to its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, within which the first Ramsar site was designated in 1990. While the initial emphasis was on selecting sites of importance to waterbirds, now non-bird features are increasingly taken into account, both in the selection of new sites and when reviewing existing sites.

The designation of UK Ramsar sites has generally been underpinned through prior notification of these areas as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) (or Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs) in Northern Ireland). Accordingly, these receive statutory protection under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended) and the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (as amended). Government and Devolved Administrations have also issued policy statements relating to the special status of Ramsar sites which extend the same protection at a policy level to listed Ramsar sites.

JNCC provides scientific advice to the UK statutory nature conservation agencies (or the relevant administration in the case of Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies) to support the proposal and designation of Ramsar sites. JNCC also participates in delegations to national and international Ramsar meetings; assists Government with the harmonisation of Ramsar procedures worldwide; and co-ordinates the production of the UK's national report to the triennial Conferences of the Parties to Ramsar.

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Ramsar site network summary

Designated and proposed Ramsar sites as of 22nd May 2018.

Area No. of sites Area (ha)
Country England 68 320,648
  England / Scotland 1 43,637
  England / Wales 3 40,553
  Northern Ireland 20 88,152
  Scotland 50 283,083
  Wales 7 11,366
Overseas Territories Anguilla 1 600
  Bermuda 7 36
  British Indian Ocean Territory 1 35,424
  British Virgin Islands 1 1,071
  Cayman Islands 1 82
  Falkland Islands 2 4,747
  Guernsey 2 1,075
  Tristan da Cunha 2 133,024
  Turks and Caicos 1 58,617
  Western Sovereign Base Area of Cyprus 1 2,171
Crown Dependencies Alderney 1 15,629
  Isle of Man 1 193
  Jersey 4 18,756
  Sark 1 4
Total United Kingdom 175 1,058,868

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Latest changes to Ramsar site network

EU Code Site Name Country Changes Date
UK22003 Herm, Jethou and The Humps OT New Ramsar site 19/10/2015
UK11042 Mersey Narrows and North Wirral Foreshore England New Ramsar site 05/07/2013
UK11083 Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits England New Ramsar site 07/04/2011
UK11082 The Dee Estuary England/ Wales Site extended 10/12/2009
UK53001 Gough Island OT New Ramsar site 01/07/2008
UK53002 Inaccessible Island OT New Ramsar site 28/06/2008
UK22004 Gouliot Caves and Headland OT New Ramsar site 09/04/2007
UK12017 Magheraveely Marl Loughs Northern Ireland New Ramsar site 07/02/2007
UK11031 Humber Estuary England Site extended 31/08/2007
UK21001 The Ballaugh Curragh, Isle of Man OT New Ramsar site 06/09/2006
UK22001 Lihou Island and L`Erée Headland, Guernsey OT New Ramsar site 01/03/2006
UK22002 Alderney West Coast and the Burhou Islands OT New Ramsar site 25/08/2005
UK11067 Stour and Orwell Estuaries England Boundary extension 19/05/2005
UK23003 Les Écréhous & Les Dirouilles, Jersey OT New Ramsar site 02/02/2005
UK23002 Les Minquiers, Jersey OT New Ramsar site 02/02/2005
UK23004 Les Pierres de Lecq (the Paternosters), Jersey OT New Ramsar site 02/02/2005

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Ramsar site information

JNCC maintain site information for all Ramsar sites in the UK.

A list of UK Ramsar sites is available  and includes each site’s country, location, area, designation status and site code. The list also links to each Ramsar site’s Information Sheet. Individual UK country lists are available here for England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the UK Overseas Territories.

In addition, a spreadsheet of UK Ramsar sites and their qualifying bird species, along with other published data relevant to Ramsar sites, and a spatial layer of Ramsar site boundaries is available from the UK Protected Area Datasets for Download webpage.

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Ramsar reporting

As a party to the Ramsar Convention, the UK are required to submit a report to the Ramsar Secretariat every three years, ahead of each Conference of the Parties to the Convention, on the UK’s experience implementing the Convention. The latest UK Ramsar reports and supplementary documentation are available.  

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International conventions

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