Conservation of Morocco’s Wetlands – Part One

In an effort to prevent the loss of wetlands, primarily due to encroachment by humans, the Ramsar Convention identifies and monitors wetlands around the world that are considered to be of international importance. Currently, there are 168 countries supporting this initiative, including the North African country of Morocco. Wetland areas in Morocco that have been identified as meeting the criteria for being listed as Ramsar sites, include Aguelmame Sidi Ali lake; Al Massira Dam; Cape Three Forks; the Draa River; Iriqui National Park; Loukkos River; Merja Zerga; Mohamed V Dam; Moulouya River; Souss-Massa National Park; and Tafilalt.

Located on the Oum Er-Rbia River in the Settat Province of Morocco, the Al Massira Dam was completed in 1979 and today provides drinking water and water to irrigate farmland in the Doukkala Region of the country. Since 1980 the dam has also been generating hydroelectric power for the region. The dam’s reservoir and the wetlands on its perimeter provide habitats for a large number of water birds, both local and migratory. Among the birds seen in this Ramsar designated wetland are the Marbled Teal, considered by the IUCN to be ‘vulnerable’ from a conservation viewpoint. This Ramsar site is believed to be the only nesting site in Africa for the Common Black-headed Gull. Moreover, the dam is Morocco’s most important inland fishing site, and in an effort to preserve the seven species found in the dam, fishing permits are limited to twelve annually. Nonetheless, the main threat to this important site is illegal fishing, along with pollution problems and poaching of eggs during breeding season.

The Mohammed V Dam is located on the Moulouya River in the Oujda-Angad Province, providing hydroelectric power and water to the city of Nador, as well as irrigation for farmland downstream in the areas of Triffa and Bou Areg. Built in 1967, the dam and its surrounding wetlands are a vital refuge for both local and migratory waterfowl. The area was designated as a Ramsar site in 2005 and at this stage has no significant threats to its continued functioning.

Continued in Part Two