Les étangs de la Dombes vue du cielLes étangs de la Dombes vue du ciel
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The Dombes

Labeled RAMSAR

In 2023, the Dombes was officially labeled as a site of international importance for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands: it received the Ramsar label.
Its thousand ponds, age-old traditions, and unparalleled biodiversity make it a unique territory. Yet, until now, the Dombes had not received any international recognition.

This was accomplished with the Ramsar label obtained on Wednesday, March 22, 2023.


What is it ?

The Ramsar Convention, named after the Iranian city where it was signed in 1971, is an international agreement recognizing the importance of wetlands.

Large French territories have long been labeled Ramsar, such as the Brenne, a region with characteristics similar to the Dombes with many ponds, or very different wetlands like the Gulf of Morbihan or the Jura peat bogs.

The Dombes is the first Ramsar site in the Ain Department.

Why the Ramsar Label?

The goal of this initiative is to raise awareness of the natural and cultural heritage of the Dombes. It also aims to highlight this history and the practices that shaped it, with its unique chain of ponds organization.
The criteria for Ramsar labeling are based on biodiversity richness, particularly the diversity of waterfowl and their populations.

The water in the ponds comes from precipitation. To manage the water, people have created ditches that collect rainwater and allow it to circulate from one pond to another.
Thus, the ponds are often connected to each other and form a real network.
The ponds are organized according to the topography of the land. Some are higher than others. To transfer water from one to another, the lowest pond must be emptied, the thou of an upstream pond opened, and the water allowed to flow. Water circulation and management are therefore very important. This serves to save and reuse water several times, a very precious resource in the Dombes.

An emptied pond is not necessarily filled again. It can be left without water for a year: this is called assec. This phase allows for work in and around the pond. The bief is dredged to remove the muddy soil that has accumulated during the water-filled years and hinders fishing. Structures such as the thou and water inlets are inspected and repaired if necessary. During the assec, the farmer can also sow cereals in the pond: oats and especially corn. These two activities, inspection of structures and agriculture, help maintain, clean, and enrich the pond.
A year of assec alternates with a water-filled period (étang en eau) which has increased over time from 2-3 years to 4-5 years.

Pond Fishing

In the ponds, carp, roach, rudd, tench, pike, and sometimes zander are produced.

Fish farming produces 1500 tons of fish annually. The Dombes is the leading region in pond fish production in France. But before the fish can be enjoyed, they need to be raised, caught, and transported.

Every year, the pond is emptied and the fish caught. The fish that have reached the right size are sold to traders. The others are immediately returned to the pond to grow until the next year’s fishing.
Fishing in a pond generally takes place from October/November to late February. The pond must be emptied before being fished. To do this, the thou is opened to let the water flow out and the daraise (grate) prevents the fish from escaping. The draining of the pond, meaning the evacuation of the water, is more or less long depending on its size. As the water flows out, the fish follow the current. On the day of the fishing, they are all gathered in the basin called pêcherie. Fishing involves several steps and requires the use of several tools: arvot, filochon, fork, gruyère

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Dombes Tourisme

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