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Ramsar Fact Sheet I
Mai Po and Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site
What is Ramsar?
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty adopted on 2nd February 1971 in the Iranian
city of Ramsar. The mission of the Convention is "the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local,
regional and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable
development throughout the world". The convention was extended to Hong Kong in 1979 which means Hong Kong
has an international obligation to protect its valuable wetlands. China joined the convention in 1992. More than 30
sites have been designated as Ramsar Site in Mainland China, covering an area of around 3,000,000 ha.
Black-faced Spoonbill landing © John and Jemi Holmes
Aerial view of Mai Po gei wai © Martin Harvey
Ramsar Sites Worldwide
More than 150 Contracting Parties or member States are Party to the Ramsar Convention and over 1,800
wetlands have been placed on the List of Wetlands of International Importance, covering an area of over
185,000,000 ha.
How Mai Po meets the Ramsar Criteria?
To qualify as a Ramsar Site, each wetland must meet a number of ecological criterions. The Mai Po Inner Deep
Bay - which was designated a Ramsar Site on 4th September 1995 - qualifies because it:
● supports 16 globally threatened bird species and over 20 species of invertebrates new to science have been
found there;
● supports 13 species of invertebrates including one crab species endemic to the Pearl River Delta
● regularly supports over 20,000 wintering waterbirds (between 1999-2005, Deep Bay supported an average
58,000 waterfowl in mid-winter);
● holds over 1% of the individuals in the population of 9 species of waterbirds. In particular about 20% of the
world’s wintering population of the Black-faced Spoonbill, Platalea minor in 1999-2005.
The Mai Po Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site
The 1,540 ha Deep Bay area in the north-western corner of Hong Kong has been known to support a rich and
varied wetland flora and fauna for at least the last 100 years. During the 20th Century both the physical and
cultural landscape of the Bay was modified by human activities such as rice, fish, shrimp and oyster production to
supply the local Hong Kong markets, and land-use change; notably conversion to residential estates and
container storage facilities.
WWF-HK began to take active management of the Reserve for environmental education and conservation in
1984. Since then it has taken on management of all the traditionally operated shrimp ponds (gei wai), established
two major facilities at the Reserve: an Education Centre and Field Studies Centre, set up 15 observation hides
and an extensive network of boardwalks for visitors to access the key habitats and watch wildlife.
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Ramsar Fact Sheet II
Mai Po and Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site
Characteristics of the Mai Po Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site
The Ramsar Site is renowned for the number and variety of waterbirds it supports. Being located at the midpoint of the East Asian – Australasian Flyway (EAAF) migration route, some 20,000 to 30,000 shorebirds
regularly use the Ramsar inter-tidal mudflats to rest and refuel before continuing their long journey. At these
times there is chance of seeing rare birds such as the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmaeus,
Nordmann’s Greenshank Tringa guttifer and Asian Dowitcher Limnodromus semipalmatus. In winter, around
80,000 waterbirds are found in and around the Ramsar Site, including endangered species such as Saunders'
Gull Larus saundersi and one fifth of the world's population of the Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor.
Management Zonation
A Conservation Strategy and Management Plan for the Ramsar site have been implemented since 1998. Based
on the habitats, ecological values and existing land uses, the Ramsar site is divided into five different
management zones (i.e. the Core Zone, the Biodiversity Management Zone, the Wise Use Zone, the Public
Access Zone, and the Private Land Zone). Each management zone has its specific management objective:
● Core Zone - To provide an undisturbed reference area where the biological interest of the Ramsar Site is
● Biodiversity Management Zone - To be managed for biodiversity conservation and a refuge for waterfowl.
● Public Access Zone - To enable people to have unrestricted but managed access to a part of the Ramsar Site
for public education, raising public awareness and quiet recreation relevant to these values.
● Wise Use Zone - To allow ecologically sustainable use of wetland and other natural resources to be carried
out in a way compatible with the Ramsar Site’s management goals.
● Private Land Zone - To recognize the land status. It is intended to obtain and maintain the co-operation of the
owners concerned to conduct their management in an ecologically sustainable manner consistent with the
purposes of the surrounding or adjacent management zones.
The Mai Po Nature Reserve (MPNR) is classified as a Biodiversity Management Zone (BMZ) for which the WWF
management goal is to maintain and increase the diversity of habitats appropriate for south China coastal
wetlands, and the richness of native wildlife in the area.
Management Zonation of Mai Po and Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site
Google Earth 2010
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Ramsar Fact Sheet III
Mai Po and Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site
Future Plans for the Mai Po Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site
The Ramsar Site continues to support large numbers of waterbirds, but is facing many problems;
sedimentation and water pollution being the most serious. This continues to affect the Mai Po gei wai
through silt accumulation and a decline in aquatic organisms, whilst out in the Bay the inter-tidal mangrove
forest continues to expand at the expense of inter-tidal mudflat habitat. While the former can be offset with
large-scale de-silting works, a solution to the latter has yet to be found and becoming more urgent.
Saunders Gull © Neil Fifer
Cormorants © Loretta Luk
Egrets in Mai Po Gei wai © Neil Fifer
Organisation Structure & Role of Government
About 20 WWF staff are permanently based at the MPNR carrying out habitat and infrastructure
management, research and monitoring, community, wetland training, education and visitor marketing works.
A Management Committee comprising local conservation experts, academics, a government representative
and other conservation land managers, meet quarterly to oversee and advise on the development of the
Reserve. WWF-HK works closely with the HKSAR Government to manage the MPNR and receives partial
funding to carry out habitat management and educational visits each year. Other funds are raised through
membership, donations and sponsored events at the Reserve.
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