On 12th of October 2020, the 2020 International Conference on the Restoration of Coastal and Estuary Ecosystems was held in Yeosan county, Republic of Korea (ROK) hosted by Chungcheongnam-do Province.
Coastal ecosystems are one of the major natural assets in the ROK, but human activities such as large-scale agriculture, industrial expansion, and extensive reclamation of estuaries have led to natural habitat loss and the destruction of their ecological functions.
The international conference examined cases of estuary restoration around the world, where ecological functions of estuaries were successfully restored for wise and sustainable use. Based on the case studies of estuary restoration, experts discussed the possibility of restoring one of EAAFP’s Flyway Network Sites, Cheonsu Bay (EAAF046] and Bunam Lake in Chungcheongnam-do Province, which will be the first case of wetland re-establishment or so-called “reverse reclamation” in Korea.
The conference began with a keynote presentation by Prof. Seung-soo Chun from Eco-Horizon Institute. During the presentation, Prof. Chun debunked the misconceptions about wetland-re-establishment and discussed how the process can lead to a sustainable use of the estuary.
Followed by the keynote presentation, the conference was divided into three sessions. In Session I, six presenters from five diverse organizations (Marine Ecology Division-Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, Korean Institute of Ocean Science and Technology, Pusan National University, Birds Korea, Haenam Cultural Center) presented on the current status of policies and cases of coastal and estuary restoration in Korea, including Bunam Lake, Cheonsu Bay [EAAF046], Shiwa Lake, Nakdong River (EAAF097], Hwaseong Wetlands (EAAF142], Yeongnam and Kumho Lakes in Haenam.
During Session II, three overseas presenters Dr. Paul Paulus (Senior Advisor Water-management at Rijkswaterstaat Zeeland, Netherlands); Dr. Adolf Kellermann (SWIMWAY Wadden Sea Coordinator, Chair of trilateral Task Group Monitoring and Assessment in Wadden Sea, Germany); and Mr. Doug Watkins (EAAFP Secretariat Chief Executive), presented on coastal and estuary restoration cases, respectively about Lake Grevelingen in the Netherlands, the Wadden Sea, and examples in Japan, Australia and China.
In Session III, four designated participants, Mr. Changhwan Oh from Jeonbuk National University, Mr. Jongseong Kim from Seoul National University, Mr. Jongjoo Yoon from Chungnam Institute, and Ms. Kyoung-suk Kweon from Seosan Taean Korean Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEN) discussed how we should approach restoration, reflecting lessons learned from the Saemangeum case and projects discussed in previous presentations.
Near the end, the special session was held with the governor of the province, Seosan Mayor and Taean Mayor. During the session, the EAAFP Secretariat Chief Executive, Mr. Doug Watkins, gave congratulatory remarks on the importance of the connectivity between ecosystems and migratory waterbirds along the flyway and of the collaboration with different levels of stakeholders to design the initial plan before the restoration.
During the roundtable for strategies of estuary restoration and sustainable use, local participants had the opportunity to ask speakers from other countries, including the Dr. Tjeerd Blauw (senior policy advisor at Provincial Government of Zeeland, Netherlands), about their restoration experiences and any issues they encountered with restoration projects. All four speakers stressed that it is important to be patient with wetland restoration projects, since it takes time to restore water quality and ecological functions of an ecosystem, as was the case in Veerse Meer Lake, Netherland and in Denmark.
Chungcheongnam-do Province expressed their hope for the coastal and restoration to be reflected as one of the key tasks on the Korean Green New Deal Policy and for the Bunam Lake restoration project to become a national project. These projects are designed to serve as models for restoring the natural ecosystems of Korea, promote sustainable tourism, and ultimately forge the path to a greener future. Participants noted that to achieve this goal, it is crucial to have the active involvement of local communities, stakeholders, and governments. This international conference was the first step in working towards Chungcheongnam-do Province’s ambitious mission.
Based on the experiences of past restoration projects, Chungcheongnam-do Provinces looks forward to developing long-term restoration strategies and action plans guided by scientific data. With the cooperation from local ministries, governments, communities, civil societies, and organizations, these restoration strategies will be linked to the Green New Deal announced by RoK President Moon Jae-in. The meeting was successfully concluded with the participants expressing their hope for COVID-19 to subside and for more international guests to attend the 2nd International Conference.