4 February 2013 - It is with great sadness that the CMS Secretariat has learned of the passing away of Professor Geoffrey Matthews at the age of 89.
The first announcement of the planning for CMS was made by the German Ministry for the Environment at the Heiligenhafen Conference in 1974. This was one of the wetlands and waterbird conferences held before Ramsar came into force. Geoffrey Matthews chaired the Heiligenhafen Conference, and so was informed from the outset of the development of the Convention.
Professor Matthews was well-known in both Ramsar and AEWA circles as a passionate advocate for wetland and waterbird conservation and has been recognized as one of four "Founding Fathers" of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (along with Luc Hoffmann, Erik Carp, and Eskandar Firouz). He devoted a good part of his career to developing and promoting the concept of an inter-governmental convention on the conservation and wise use of wetlands and was also involved in the early development of the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement.
He has also been recognized as a great scientist in the field of waterbird biology and played a key role in the current knowledge on migratory bird navigation. He received his PhD from Christ's College, Cambridge in 1950.
In 1969, Geoffrey Matthews succeeded Dr. Luc Hoffmann to become Honorary Director of the IWRB (the International Wildfowl Research Bureau, which then became the International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau, and is now Wetlands International) and remained active in matters of waterbird research long after that, including as a Patron of the historic ‘Waterbirds around the World’ Conference in Edinburgh in April 2004.
Following his retirement, Geoffrey Matthews wrote the definitive history of the negotiations for a wetland convention and its subsequent development, The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands: its history and development, which was published by the Ramsar Bureau (or Secretariat) in 1993, and which has now been re-issued in PDF format in commemoration of his passing.
On behalf of the wider CMS community, the CMS Secretariat would like to express its deepest gratitude for Professor Matthews’ commitment to international wetland and waterbird conservation and to extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.
Both the Ramsar Secretariat and Wetlands International have added special tributes for Professor Geoffrey Matthews on their websites.