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A Brief Introduction to the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) Including Conservation Agreements and Memoranda of Understanding

Migratory species are vulnerable to a wide range of threats, including habitat shrinkage in breeding areas, excessive hunting along migration routes, and degradation of their feeding grounds. As a result of international concern over these threats, CMS was adopted in 1979 and entered into force on 1 November 1983. CMS, also known as the Bonn Convention, recognizes that states must be the protectors of migratory species that live within or pass through their national jurisdictions, and aims to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their ranges. As of November 2008, CMS has 110 parties.
 
Migratory species threatened with extinction are listed on Appendix I of the Convention. CMS Parties strive towards strictly protecting these species, conserving or restoring the places where they live, mitigating obstacles to migration and controlling other factors that might endanger them. Migratory species that need or would significantly benefit from international cooperation are listed in Appendix II, and CMS encourages the Range States to conclude global or regional agreements. These agreements may range from legally binding treaties (the “Agreements”) to less formal instruments (the “Memoranda of Understanding”), and can be adapted to the requirements of particular regions. These Agreements and MOUs are open to all Range States of the species, regardless of whether they are parties to the Convention.

To date, seven Agreements have been concluded under the auspices of CMS. They address:
Populations of European Bats
Cetaceans of the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area
Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas
Seals in the Wadden Sea
African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds
Albatrosses and Petrels
Gorillas and their Habitats

Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) concluded to date aim to conserve:
Siberian Crane
Slender-billed Curlew
Marine Turtles of the Atlantic Coast of Africa
Marine Turtles of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia
Middle-European Population of the Great Bustard
Bukhara Deer
Aquatic Warbler
West-African Populations of the African Elephant
Saiga Antelope
Cetaceans of Pacific Island States
Dugongs
Mediterranean Monk Seal
Ruddy-headed Goose
Grassland Birds

In addition, the CMS Secretariat has launched an Action Plan for the Central Asian Flyway, one of the world’s most vital routes for migratory birds, and an Action Plan for the conservation and restoration of the Sahelo-Saharan antelopes, while initiatives to develop agreements or MOU are ongoing with regard to raptors, migratory sharks, and western African aquatic mammals.

CMS operational bodies include the Conference of the Parties (COP), the Standing Committee, the Scientific Council and a Secretariat provided by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The COP is the decision-making body of the Convention. It meets every two to three years to review the conservation status of migratory species and the implementation of the Convention, and provide guidance and make recommendations to the parties. To date, the COP has met eight times.

COP-5: At its fifth meeting (April 1997, Geneva, Switzerland), the COP added 21 species to Appendix I and 22 species to Appendix II, and adopted a resolution identifying the Lesser Kestrel, Andean Flamingo, Puna Flamingo, Lesser White-fronted Goose and Mountain Gorilla as species for concerted actions. It also adopted resolutions on guidelines for the harmonization of future agreements, and on financial and administrative manners. The COP endorsed Action Plans for selected migratory birds listed in Appendices I and II, cooperative actions for Appendix II species, and development of an Action Plan for the Great Cormorant in the African-Eurasian region.

COP-6: At its sixth meeting (November 1999, Cape Town, South Africa), the COP adopted resolutions on: institutional arrangements; financial and administrative matters; by-catch; information management; the Southern Hemisphere Albatross conservation; and concerted actions for Appendix I species. Seven species were added to Appendix I, including six rare birds, as well as manatees of the marine areas of Panama and Honduras. 31 species were added under Appendix II, including dolphins of South-East Asia, seven species of petrel, sturgeon and paddlefish species, and the Whale Shark. Recommendations were approved on cooperative actions for some Appendix II species, including Sahelo-Saharan Antelopes, the African Elephant, Houbara and Great Bustards, and Marine Turtles. Five additional Range States signed the MOU on the Conservation of Marine Turtles of the Atlantic Coast of Africa.
  
COP-7: At its seventh meeting (September 2002, Bonn, Germany), the COP discussed: amendments to the Appendices, measures to improve the conservation status of Appendix I and II species, and institutional, financial and administrative arrangements. Delegates also reviewed the implementation of the Convention’s current agreements, and developments for future agreements. An agreement was signed between the German Government and the CMS Secretariat, officially establishing Bonn as the headquarters of the Secretariat. The meeting added 20 species to Appendix I and 21 to Appendix II, while the Fin, Sei and Sperm whales, and the Great White Shark were listed on both.

COP-8: At its eighth meeting (November 2005, Nairobi, Kenya), the COP addressed: the review of CMS implementation; sustainable use; the 2010 target to significantly reduce biodiversity loss; measures to improve the conservation status of Appendix I species, including projects on Sahelo-Saharan antelopes and the Siberian crane; and measures to improve the conservation status of Appendix II species, including raptors, migratory sharks, and marine turtles; proposals for amendments to Appendices I and II; the CMS 2006-2011 Strategic Plan; the CMS Information Management Plan; and financial and administrative arrangements. By the end of the week, COP-8 adopted 18 resolutions and six recommendations, added 11 species to Appendix I and 16 to Appendix II, with the Basking shark, Bukhara deer and Short-beaked Common dolphin listed on both appendices, and witnessed the signing of new MOU on the West African elephant and the Saiga antelope.
CMS Agreements (as of September 2008)

AFRICAN-EURASIAN WATERBIRDS AGREEMENT: The Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) is the largest agreement under the CMS. It provides for coordinated and concerted action to be taken by the Range States of hundreds of species of birds ecologically dependent on wetlands in Africa and Eurasia, including the Middle East, Greenland and parts of Asia and Canada, throughout their migration system. It was concluded in June 1995 and entered into force on 1 November 1999. It now has 61 parties.

The Agreement’s geographical area is outlined in Annex I. Annex II lists the species of waterbirds to which the Agreement applies. The list includes 235 species of birds ecologically dependent on wetlands for at least part of their annual cycle, including many species of divers, grebes, pelicans, cormorants, herons, storks, rails, ibises, spoonbills, flamingos, ducks, swans, geese, cranes, waders, gulls, terns and the South African penguin. Annex III contains a comprehensive Action Plan, which describes actions to be undertaken in the areas of: species and habitat conservation, management of human activities, research and monitoring, education and information, and implementation. The Action Plan also contains a table (Table 1) on the status of populations of migratory waterbirds.  

AEWA MOP-1: The first Meeting of the Parties (MOP) to AEWA (November 1999, Cape Town,) South Africa) established the permanent AEWA Secretariat and Technical Committee, adopted a budget for 2000-2002, expanded its Action Plan to include all AEWA species and adopted Conservation Guidelines.

AEWA MOP-2: The second MOP to AEWA was held immediately following CMS COP-7 (September 2002, Bonn, Germany). The meeting agreed to include 65 species in Annex II of the Agreement and adopted international action plans on the Sociable Plover, the Black-winged Pratincole and the Great Snipe. MOP-2 also called on parties to enhance their efforts to phase out the use of lead shot in wetlands; accepted the conservation guideline on national legislation for migratory waterbirds and the conservation guideline on avoidance of introductions of non-native migratory waterbird species as interim guidance for implementing the Action Plan; adopted the international implementation priorities for 2003-2007; established a Standing Committee to carry out interim activity on behalf of the MOP; and adopted guidelines for contributions in kind in lieu of cash.

AEWA MOP-3: The third MOP to AEWA (October 2005, Dakar, Senegal) adopted resolutions on, inter alia: avian influenza; climate change in relation to migratory waterbirds; guidelines for criteria used in Table 1 of the Action Plan; online reporting; an international partnership for support of waterbird population assessments; amendments to the Annexes to the Agreement; a Strategic Plan; a Communication Strategy; International Implementation Priorities 2006-2008; International Single Species Action Plans; and the budget for 2006-2008.

AEWA MOP-4: The fourth MOP to AEWA (September 2008, Antananarivo, Madagascar) adopted the Strategic Plan 2009-2017 and an enhanced national report format; conservation guidelines concerning impacts of infrastructure development-related disturbance, and measures needed to help waterbirds adapt to climate change; and international single species action plans on the maccoa duck, Madagascar pond heron, white-winged flufftail, lesser flamingo, black-tailed godwit, Eurasian spoonbill and lesser white-fronted goose, the latter with a note that it will be kept under review and updated when new information becomes available. Among the meeting’s main achievements was the adoption of a budget allowing the Secretariat to maintain its current level of staff and activities, and of a resolution on an African Initiative for the Conservation of Migratory Waterbirds and their Habitats in Africa. A Mauritian proposal to include 20 additional seabird species in Annex 2 of the Agreement was agreed, while other resolutions addressed: phasing out lead shot in wetlands; avian influenza; climate change and migratory waterbirds; hunting and trade legislation; re-establishment projects; and non-native species.

ALBATROSSES AND PETRELS: The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) seeks to conserve albatrosses and petrels by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to albatross and petrel populations. It was opened for signature in Canberra, Australia, on 19 June 2001, and came into force in February 2004. It now has 11 parties.

CETACEANS OF THE BLACK SEA, MEDITERRANEAN AND CONTIGUOUS ATLANTIC AREA: The Agreement on Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS) was concluded in November 1996 and entered into force on 1 June 2001. It requires signatories to, inter alia: protect dolphins, porpoises and whales; establish a network of protected areas important to their feeding, breeding and calving; enforce legislation to prevent the deliberate taking of cetaceans by vessels under their flag or within their jurisdiction; and carry out research and monitoring. ACCOBAMS has 21 parties.

SMALL CETACEANS OF THE BALTIC AND NORTH SEAS: The Agreement on Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas (ASCOBANS) covers all small cetaceans, including species and sub-species of toothed whales, except Sperm Whales. The Agreement, which was concluded in September 1991 and entered into force on 29 March 1994, now has 10 parties. It encourages cooperation among Range States with respect to habitat conservation and management, pollution mitigation, surveys and research. In February 2008, the geographic coverage of the Agreement was extended to also cover the North East Atlantic and the Irish Sea.

BATS IN EUROPE: The Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS) was concluded in September 1991 and entered into force on 16 January 1994. EUROBATS applies to all European populations of 45 bat species. Its aim is conserve them through legislation, education, conservation measures and international cooperation. EUROBATS has developed a wide-ranging Conservation and Management Plan, which is the key instrument for the Agreement’s implementation. It addresses issues such as legal requirements, population survey and monitoring, roosts, foraging habitats, the use of pesticides and the promotion of public and professional awareness.

GORILLAS AND THEIR HABITATS: The Agreement on the Conservation of Gorillas and their Habitats was agreed upon by nine out of ten African Range States in October 2007, and entered into force in June 2008. Its main objective is to conserve and restore the highly threatened Gorilla populations in Central and West Africa through an Action Plan covering education, research and forest protection. It is jointly serviced by the CMS Secretariat and the Great Apes Survival Project Partnership, an alliance of over 30 governments, UN agencies and several voluntary bodies.

SEALS IN THE WADDEN SEA: The Agreement on the Conservation of Seals in the Wadden Sea was concluded in 1990 and entered into force on 1 October 1991. A response to a steep decline in the Wadden Sea seal population, this trilateral Agreement aims to promote close cooperation amongst the parties (Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands), in order to achieve and maintain a favorable conservation status for the common seal population, which is an irreplaceable component of the Wadden Sea and an important indicator of its environmental health. It provides for a conservation and management plan, coordination of research and monitoring, habitat protection, pollution reduction and public awareness efforts.
Memoranda of Understanding (as of September 2008)

GREAT BUSTARD: The MOU on the Conservation and Management of the Middle-European Population of the Great Bustard became effective on 1 June 2001. It covers the Middle-European populations of the Great Bustard and manages modern agriculture throughout its range in Central Europe in order to save the remaining individuals. The MOU includes an Action Plan which lists specific activities appropriate for each Range State, including habitat protection, prevention of hunting and disturbance, cross-border conservation, monitoring, research and public awareness activities. It is currently signed by 12 States.

SIBERIAN CRANE: The MOU concerning Conservation Measures for the Siberian Crane was concluded on 1 July 1993 and revised on 1 January 1999. Originally concentrating on the Western and Central Asian populations of Siberian cranes, the scope of the MOU was extended in 1998 to cover the larger Eastern Asian population in China. It is currently signed by 12 States.

SLENDER-BILLED CURLEW: The MOU concerning Conservation Measures for the Slender-billed Curlew became effective in September 1994. The MOU area covers 30 Range States in Southern and Eastern Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East. It now has 18 Signatory States. Conservation priorities under the related Action Plan include effective legal protection for the Slender-billed curlew and its look-alikes, the location of its breeding grounds as well as key wintering and passage sites, the appropriate protection and management of its habitat, and awareness-rising amongst politicians, decision-makers and hunters.

MARINE TURTLES IN AFRICA: The MOU concerning Conservation Measures for Marine Turtles of the Atlantic Coast of Africa became effective on 1 July 1999. It aims at safeguarding six marine turtle species and covers coastal areas extending from Morocco to South Africa. A Conservation Plan, concluded in May 2002, focuses on the establishment of a database on turtle ecology (distribution, migration patterns, etc) and on threats (nature and extent of direct exploitation, bycatch rate, impact of coastal management, pollution, etc). The project aims to create a monitoring and protection network for nesting and feeding sites in close collaboration with local communities, fishermen, travel operators and coastal developers. There are currently 22 Signatory States to the MOU.

MARINE TURTLES IN SOUTH-EAST ASIA: The MOU on the Conservation and Management of Marine Turtles and their Habitats of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia became effective on 1 September 2001. It currently has 26 Signatory States. Its Conservation and Management Plan focuses on reducing threats, conserving critical habitat, exchanging scientific data, increasing public awareness and participation, promoting regional cooperation and seeking resources for implementation.

BUKHARA DEER: The MOU concerning Conservation and Restoration of the Bukhara Deer became effective on 16 May 2002 and has been signed by all the four Range States of the species in Central Asia. The Bukhara Deer Action Plan is the main tool for conservation activities under the MOU: it provides for the restoration of the range and number of the Bukhara Deer in suitable habitats, the development of a transboundary network of protected areas, legal protection measures and enhanced international cooperation.

AQUATIC WARBLER: The MOU concerning Conservation Measures for the Aquatic Warbler became effective on 30 April 2003. Its Action Plan summarizes the distribution, biology and conservation status of the Aquatic Warbler, and describes precise actions to be taken by relevant countries. The MOU now has 12 Signatory States.
                                                           
SAIGA ANTELOPE: The MOU concerning Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use of the Saiga Antelope became effective on 24 September 2006. It now has three Signatory States. Its Action Plan commits governments and partners to enhance enforcement and anti-poaching efforts, work with local communities to reduce poaching and illegal trade, restore the Saiga’s habitat and establish new protected areas.  

WEST AFRICAN ELEPHANTS: The MOU concerning Conservation Measures for the West African Populations of the African Elephant became effective on 22 November 2005. Signed by all 13 Range States, the MOU provides an international framework for Range State governments, scientists and conservation groups to collaborate in the conservation of elephant populations and their habitats. A strategy developed by the African Elephant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission was appended to the MOU and forms an action-oriented basis for ongoing conservation efforts. It has three main components: better understand the status of elephants; maintain and possibly increase the numbers; and improve elephant habitats.

PACIFIC ISLANDS CETACEANS: The MOU for the Conservation of Cetaceans and their Habitats in the Pacific Islands Region became effective on 15 September 2006. It provides an intergovernmental framework for governments, scientists and other groups to monitor and coordinate ongoing conservation efforts. Signed by 11 States, the MOU is accompanied by a Whale and Dolphin Action Plan developed by the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), which forms the basis for on-the-ground conservation efforts throughout the region.  

MEDITERRANEAN MONK SEAL: The MOU concerning Conservation Measures for the Eastern Atlantic Populations of the Mediterranean Monk Seal has been signed by all four Range States and became effective on 18 October 2007. The MOU is considered to be a significant step towards improving the conservation status and the habitat of the Eastern Atlantic Monk Seal, which suffers from entanglement and mortality in fishing gears, overfishing, hunting and human persecution, pollution and habitat loss.

DUGONG: The MOU on the Conservation and Management of Dugongs and their Habitats throughout their Range became effective on 31 October 2007. Signed by 11 States, the MOU is designed to facilitate national level and transboundary actions that will lead to the conservation of Dugong populations and their habitats. The associated Conservation Management Plan provides the basis for focused species and habitat-specific activities, coordinated across the Dugong’s migratory range.

RUDDY-HEADED GOOSE: The MOU between Argentina and Chile on the Conservation of the Ruddy-headed Goose became effective on 21 November 2006. It aims to safeguard the mainland population of the species, and serves as a means of facilitating the exchange of scientific, technical and legal information.

GRASSLAND BIRDS: The MOU on the Conservation of Southern South American Migratory Grassland Bird Species and Their Habitats became effective on 26 August 2007. It is signed by four Range States. An Action Plan is to be prepared, which will include a system of national scientific coordinators to serve as focal points.
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