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.
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.
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.
Ramsar site network summary
Designated and proposed Ramsar sites as of 22nd May 2018.
|Area||No. of sites||Area (ha)|
|England / Scotland||1||43,637|
|England / Wales||3||40,553|
|British Indian Ocean Territory||1||35,424|
|British Virgin Islands||1||1,071|
|Tristan da Cunha||2||133,024|
|Turks and Caicos||1||58,617|
|Western Sovereign Base Area of Cyprus||1||2,171|
|Isle of Man||1||193|
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|
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.
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.