The World Rowing Federation, FISA, is the first global sports body to pledge to protect UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
This commitment has developed out of World Rowing's Clean Water partnership with WWF and responds to concerns raised by UNESCO of past negative impacts by sports on World Heritage sites.
World Rowing recognises that large sporting events can have a negative impact on a location and the federation has put into action a policy on natural and mixed World Heritage sites to enforce a commitment to protect these areas. While the rowing venues currently used for World Rowing events do not impact directly on World Heritage sites, World Rowing has established policy to assess the potential effect of its events on such sites and their buffer zones and aim to reduce any impact. The policy is reflected in World Rowing's latest bidding and operational guidelines.
World Rowing also intends to raise awareness across the wider sport of rowing so that its member federations, governing bodies, clubs and regatta organisers understand how to avoid negative impacts on natural World Heritage sites and their buffer zones.
"As rowing is a sport that is intimately connected to nature, we recognise the importance of protecting natural sites," said World Rowing's President Jean-Christophe Rolland.
"World Rowing hopes that other international sporting organisations will follow in committing to preserve these areas of the world," said Rolland.
Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International, said: "UNESCO World Heritage sites are some of our planet's most special places. Unfortunately, many are under threat, including from sports events and sports-related infrastructure. In pledging to respect them, the World Rowing Federation is showing real leadership. Our favourite sports must not risk these irreplaceable areas and their outstanding universal value to people and nature."
UNESCO World Heritage sites represent some of the most unique places in the world - from Doñana National Park in Spain to Sundarbans in Bangladesh. Currently, over half of natural World Heritage sites are under threat from industrial scale activities. World Rowing's commitment adds to the growing number of voices that are making a commitment to preserving these unique natural sites.
"This commitment must be the start of a broader transition in sport. With the eyes of the world on the upcoming Winter Olympics, other sports must follow World Rowing in adopting policies that manage the risk of sports events and associated infrastructure developments on the environment. WWF calls on all sports to commit to protecting UNESCO World Heritage sites," added Lambertini.