“International Symposium for Conservation of Scaly-sided Mergansers in Yeoncheon”: November 21st 2023.

On November 21st, Korea’s first international symposium on the globally Endangered Scaly-sided Merganser 호사비오리 was held in Yeoncheon County.  Organised by Yeoncheon County and Birds Korea, the symposium opened with an address by County Mayor Kim Deog Hyun and a beautiful short video by Kim Eojin (better known as Youtuber 새덕후 Korean Birder), with some stunning close-up footage filmed especially for this event.

Yeoncheon County Mayor Kim Deog Hyun delivers a very positive opening address.
Famous independent Youtuber Mr Kim Eojin (happily also a Birds Korea member) introduces his short video.

Presentations relevant to the conservation of the Scaly-sided Merganser at a range of scales from global to local were then given “offline” by Ms. Jennifer George, the Chief Executive of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP), who introduced some of the benefits of joining the Flyway Site Network; online by Dr. Diana Solovyeva, Coordinator of the EAAFP’s Scaly-sided Merganser Task Force, who introduced the species’ global range and migration routes, and called for more research on the Korean Peninsula during migration to supplement existing knowledge on over-wintering (as outlined in the paper she coauthored with us, for publication in the Journal Wildfowl in December); offline by Dr Yoo Miyeon, the manager of the Yeoncheon Imjin River Biosphere Reserve and the main organizer of the event, who explained about the aims of the Biosphere Reserve and introduced the proposed Imjin River Flyway Network Site (still under review by the Ministry of Environment following submission in October); and offline by Director Baek Seung-Kwang, who introduced research on mergansers on the Imjin River and the threat of disturbance posed to the species in the Biosphere Reserve.  

Presentation by EAAFP Chief Executive Jennifer George.
Dr. Yoo Miyeon presents about the proposed Imjin River Flyway Network Site (with proposed boundaries, based on the habitat requirements of five key species including Scaly-sided Mergansers, outlined in light blue.
Birds Korea Yeoncheon Director Baek Seung-Kwang proposes some of the easier ways to reduce high levels of disturbance to Scaly-sided Mergansers at one key stretch of the Imjin River based on our research there.

The final session looked more deeply at planning and design, aimed at providing economic and other benefits for local communities while also improving ecosystem health through restoration and designs to reduce disturbance.  Following a short video greeting from University of California Berkeley’s Professor Matt Kondolf, UCB Professor Emeritus Randy Hester provided three online alternative visions for the Jeongok Spoonbills Wetland Park Project site and a series of 35 images which captured the spirit of possibilities at the site.  These images were also printed out, with several copies provided to each table in the meeting room. Based on a participatory planning exercise developed by Professors Hester and McNally and colleagues, the audience, seated at ten or so tables, were then given time to select their personal three favourite images; followed by 20 minutes of discussion at each table to select each table’s top ten images, ranked in importance; culminating in a representative from each table reading out their group’s list and summarizing their reasoning.  When asked whether they would like to participate in further meetings about the proposed Wetlands Park, two-thirds of the audience (about 50 out of 75) raised their hand.

Participants share their ideas on the future of the Jeongok “spoonbills project” restoration site; and hold banners showing alternative proposals drawn by Professor Randy Hester.

The strong success of this symposium, built on years of hard work by so many people for this beautiful species and for the Biosphere Reserve, was due to the support of the mayor and the excellent organisation by the Tourism Department in Yeoncheon County; the high quality of the presentations; and the enthusiastic participation of everyone who came.

Now, we all very much hope that this symposium will be followed soon by confirmation – and celebration! – of the designation of the Imjin River Flyway Network Site!

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