Cape Verde designates salt marshes as ‘Wetland of International Importance’

The government of Cape Verde has declared the salt marshes of Porto Inglês on Maio Island as the country’s fourth Wetland of International Importance, or Ramsar site.

The new site forms part of a protected area network on Maio Island and consists of extensive salt flats (also known as salinas) with a lagoon basin, sand dunes, rocky semi-desert areas and wooded areas.

The salinas are formed when seawater enters the lagoon during spring tides and high swells and then evaporates, leaving behind crystallised salts. This remarkable habitat supports a key nesting population of loggerhead turtles as well as a great diversity of birds.

The salt marshes (salinas) of Porto Inglês support a great diversity of birds and other wildlife. Credit: Edita Magileviciute/FFI.
The salt marshes (salinas) of Porto Inglês support a great diversity of birds and other wildlife. Credit: Edita Magileviciute/FFI.

The salinas are also of great economic and cultural importance to local communities, particularly the extraordinary women of the Maio women’s salt cooperative, some of whom have been collecting the salt by hand for over 50 years, passing skills from mother to daughter for generations.

Despite their ecological, economic and social importance, unregulated sand extraction, pollution and unsustainable coastal development are causing coastal erosion in the area, threatening the salinas along with the wildlife and people who depend on them.

A woman gathers salt from the salinas. Credit: Edita Magileviciute/FFI.
A woman gathers salt from the salinas. Credit: Edita Magileviciute/FFI.

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) began working in Cape Verde – an archipelago nation consisting of 10 main islands and several islets situated around 600 km off the west coast of Africa – in early 2012.

To date, this work has focused mainly on Maio Island, where FFI is helping to build the capacity of the Maio Biodiversity Foundation and other local partners, and support them as they develop a management plan for the island’s protected area network.

Alongside the Directorate General of Environment, Maio Biodiversity Foundation played a key role in securing the Salinas do Porto Inglês as a Ramsar site, and the designation will help to raise awareness at national and international levels about the importance of this critical wetland site and its biodiversity.

Share