The 2024 International Symposium of Getbol World Heritage: Celebrating 3rd Anniversary of Korean Getbol World Natural Heritage Listing

Representatives of the 2024 International Symposium of Getbol World Heritage ©EAAFP Secretariat

The 2024 International Symposium of Getbol World Heritage concluded with high-level discussions and insights from global experts. Held from April 17 to April 19 at Songdo Convensia in Incheon, Republic of Korea, the symposium celebrated the 3rd anniversary of the Korean Getbol World Natural Heritage Listing.

Experts from the Korea Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, local governments, international organizations, research institutes and civil society organizations gathered to share the progress of the management of the Getbol tidal flats since the inscription in 2021 and discussed management strategies and expansion efforts for the Phase 2 nomination.

The event was hosted by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries Korea and organized the Korea Marine Environment Management Corporation. The symposium opened the floor with a welcome speech by Mr. Kim Seong-beom, the Director of Maritime Policy Division, MOF.

“The inscription of Getbol as a World Natural Heritage site has brought global attention to Korea. I hope that this symposium, starting today, will provide an opportunity for in-depth discussions on the value of Korea’s Getbol and the future direction for its conservation.”

Congratulatory speeches followed with Mr. Yeo Kido, Director of Marine Conservation Division at KOEM, Ms. Jennifer George, Chief Executive of EAAFP, and Mr. Nicola Crockford, Principal Policy Officer of RSPB, Ms. George emphasized the critical role of Getbol as a biodiversity hotspot in the EAA flyway at her congratulatory remark.

“It’s not just any wetland—it’s a lifeline for millions of migratory birds, offering crucial feeding and nesting spots as they travel their superhighways in the sky across thousands of kilometers. These birds undertake incredible journeys, highlighting the interconnectedness of ecosystems across continents.”

Ms. Jennifer George, Chief Executive of EAAFP Secretariat, giving a Congratulatory Speech ©EAAFP Secretariat

The two days of the on-site symposium focused on integrated international cooperation, covering topics from management strategies for wetland protection to collaborative efforts to conserve the Yellow Sea region. In keeping with the symposium’s theme of ‘Directions for the Future’, the symposium emphasized its future-oriented approach, going beyond celebrating Getbol’s current state to exploring strategies for continued protection and improvement.

The symposium brought together international speakers including Mr. Raphael Glemet (Senior Programme Officer, Water and Wetlands, IUCN Asia regional office), Dr. Soledad Luna (Programme Officer, Wadden Sea World Heritage of Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS)), Mr. David Edwards (Chair of Queensland Wader Study Group), Prof. William Sutherland (Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge), Ms. Nicola Crockford (Principal Policy Officer of RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds/BirdLife in the UK), Ms. Anja Szczesinski (Senior Advisor Wadden Sea Protection of WWF Germany ), Ms. Alex Hai Zhang (Secretary General of Eco Foundation Global) for important discussions.

A keynote presentation was delivered by Mr. Suh, Woo-Rack, General Manager of Marine Protected Area, Korea Marine Environment Management Corporation (KOEM) with a theme of “Conservation and Management of Getbol World Heritage Site”. A special session delved into the latest situation analysis on intertidal and coastal ecosystems in the Yellow Sea, which is intricately connected to the Korean Getbol.

During the 2 day’s symposium 16 presentations were delivered, divided into specific topics.

17th April (Day 1)

  • Special session: Cooperation for the conservation of Yellow Sea intertidal wetlands
  • Session 1: Management Strategies for Getbol World Heritage
  • Session 2: Expansion Efforts for the Getbol World Heritage Site Phase 2 Nomination

18th April (Day 2)

  • Session 3: Conservation and Restoration Efforts Status for Getbol World Heritage Site
    • Part 1. Outstanding Universal (OUV) Monitoring of Getbol World Heritage site
    • Part 2. Restoration of Getbol World Heritage Site
  • Panel discussion: Exploring Efficient Conservation and Management Strategies for Getbol World Heritage

Inseo Hwang, Head of Marine Ecosystem Management Dept of KOEM, giving a presentation

Participants of the Symposium ©EAAFP Secretariat

Day 2 opened with discussions on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) monitoring of Getbol, shedding light on its ecological importance and the need for sustained preservation efforts. Sessions on sustainable conservation and the CEPA of Getbol World Heritage Site offered a platform for sharing best practices and collaborative strategies.

Nicola Crockford, Principal Policy Officer of RSPB, giving a presentation ©EAAFP Secretariat

“It’s important to align policies and strategies to support and encourage restoration, and there’s much to learn and share between our flyways. RSPB stands ready to help in any way we can and appreciate any advice from Korean experience, not least in relation to World Heritage inscription.”

Nicola Crockford, Principal Policy Officer of RSPB, underscored the collaboration between Korea and RSPB in conserving coastal wetlands, and dependent bird species, emphasizing the importance of habitat restoration for migratory waterbirds and the need for clear objectives, policy alignment, and collaboration to tackle the complexities of coastal restoration.

Furthermore, the event brought to light the importance of sustainable conservation practices and CEPA. Anja Szczensinski, Senior Advisor Wadden Sea Protection of WWF Germany emphasized that community participation and the development of ecotourism go a long way to conservation with the example of Wadden Sea.

The symposium concluded on 19th April with a field trip to Ganghwa Island in Incheon. Located in the Northern-West Part of the Korean Peninsula, Gangwha Island possesses important habitats for migratory waterbirds such as Black-faced Spoonbills, Red-crowned Cranes, etc.

Panel Discussion, exploring efficient conservation and management strategies ©EAAFP Secretariat

The field trip provided the participants with a firsthand experience of Getbol and an appreciation for its natural beauty and ecological importance.

This symposium was a groundbreaking convergence of NGOs, the national and local governments, and international organizations, as all joined forces to champion the cause of wetland conservation. In particular, the symposium shared that Getbol’s World Heritage Listing is based on research and long-term ecological indicators and is a fruit of partnerships among government agencies, NGOs, and communities.

As the symposium concluded, the unified message was clear: Getbol is not merely a wetland but an irreplaceable component of our global ecological network, demanding concerted conservation efforts.

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