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Berg Marathon paddlers commit to Ramsar priorities

The Berg River estuary at Velddrif at the finish of the Berg River Canoe Marathon was declared a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance earlier this year. Paddlers have committed to upholding the guidelines set for the preservation of this estuary biodiversity. Photo: Gameplan Media

The Berg River estuary at Velddrif at the finish of the Berg River Canoe Marathon was declared a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance earlier this year. Paddlers have committed to upholding the guidelines set for the preservation of this estuary biodiversity. Photo: Gameplan Media

Published Jun 23, 2022

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Paarl — When the 61st edition of the Berg River Canoe Marathon finishes on the Berg River Estuary at Velddrif on Saturday 9 July, the paddlers finishing the four-day race and the global canoeing community will unite in support of the new proclaimed Ramsar site.

Named after the Iranian city of Ramsar where the global Convention on Wetlands of International Importance was adopted in in 1971, the Berg River Estuary was declared a Ramsar site on World Wetlands Day, 2 February 2022, making it South Africa’s 28th wetland to receive official protection.

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“The declaration of South Africa’s 28th Ramsar site is an indication of the importance of conserving and protecting these unique environments that are considered super ecosystems because of their contribution to the provision of water and because they provide habitats to a large variety of migratory birds, especially water birds,” said Western Cape Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Barbara Creecy.

A Ramsar Site is a wetland site declared to be of international importance, and ensures that it will be overseen under a management framework aimed at conserving its future generations. The estuary’s headlands are found in the Franschhoek mountains, an area that receives more than 3 000 mm of rainfall area, the highest in the country.

In addition to being critical to the ecology estuaries contribute an estimated R4.2 billion to the tourism economy annually, despite comprising just 2% of South Africa’s territory.

“Bergrivier Tourism is excited about this latest accolade. The Estuary is one of our iconic attractions with visitors flocking here for fishing and bird watching. We have approximately 250 different bird species here, 127 of which are water birds. ” said Nomonde Ndlangisa, Chief Executive Officer of Bergrivier Tourism.

Paddlers have endorsed the provincial governments appeal to support the preservation of the Berg River estuary by ensuring it remains pollution-free, that invasive plants are removed and replaced with indigenous plants, and that all buildings and development remains well clear of the Estuarine Functional Zone.

“We as paddlers use this Berg River during winter in particular when the rains create river levels that make canoeing enjoyable, but as users of the river we fully endorse the call to protect this important estuary,” said race director Brandon Macleod.

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“For years paddlers have been following guidelines to re-use, recycle and reduce as well as being sparing users of domestic water. That all aligns strongly with the Ramsar protocols,” he said.

“As paddlers who have used this stretch of water for over 50 years we have noticed in recent years the return of many bird species to the Berg Estuary, which bodes well for the ongoing efforts by the local and national authorities to safeguard the Berg Estuary.

“On arguably the most high profile day in the Berg’s annual calendar, we as paddlers will send a strong message that this extremely important area of the West Coast needs to remain a top priority year-round,” he added.

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Gameplan Media

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