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Migration of Shorebirds under Threat

1 October 2014

PRESS RELEASE

Migration of Shorebirds under Threat

The President of Birds NZ, David Lawrie, recently attended the 9th conference of the Australasian Wader Study Group in Darwin. This is a meeting of researchers and interested people associated with shorebirds from Australia and New Zealand.

Following the two days of interesting talks and discussions the conference adopted the following resolution.

Our Disappearing Shorebirds

One of the world’s great natural wonders is the migration of shorebirds between their breeding grounds in Alaska and Siberia and their nonbreeding grounds in Australia and New Zealand using the East Asian Australasian Flyway. This amazing phenomenon is in danger of imminent collapse because vital staging sites on the migration route are being lost.

This was the conclusion reached at the 9th Australasian Shorebird Conference held in Darwin on the weekend.

The Flyway’s 23 countries include nearly half the world’s human population and some of its fastest growing economies. The combination is applying extraordinary development pressure on tidal flats and wetlands where the birds find food to fuel their journeys.

Paper after paper described accelerating losses to aquaculture, agriculture and urban or industrial infrastructure, particularly in the Yellow Sea. Hunting, pollution and disturbance through recreational pursuits are also significant issues along the length of the Flyway.

Projects aiming to protect shorebird habitat and reduce its loss through remediation and/or restoration were highlighted but the sheer scale and rate of change is overwhelming these efforts.

Traditional livelihoods of the many people in the Flyway who depend on coastal wetlands and tidal flats are also disappearing.

Birds New Zealand is the popular name for The Ornithological Society of New Zealand Inc

In view of the dire situation facing shorebirds, delegates of the 9th Australasian Shorebird Conference:

• Express their deep concern about the alarming decline in shorebird numbers in the Flyway.

• Encourage national governments to work in the spirit of international agreements to protect wetlands and coastal habitat for future generations.

• Call on governments at all levels, the business sector and the community to work together to protect shorebirds and their habitat to prevent further losses.

• Recognise and acknowledge the important role of the East Asian AustralasianFlyway Partnership as a framework to collaborate in the protection of shorebirds and their habitats.

The findings to support the above conference resolution were only possible to be determined because of the long term population counting of shorebirds that takes place in Australia and New Zealand on a biannual basis. This count data has been analysed by researchers at the Queensland University and the results have shown that there has been a steady decline in populations of most of the migratory shorebirds.

The shorebird data is collected by amateur bird watchers on an organised basis in each of the countries and these counts have taken place since the 1970s. The important outcomes that have been reached show the value of long term count data and the necessity to continue this into the future.

The details surrounding shorebird migration is one of the natural wonders of the world and it is essential that governments throughout the flyway take appropriate action to ensure that this can continue into the future.


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