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Arctic Nesting Shorebirds Are Declining Fast –What Conservationists Can Do And Why You Need To Do It Larry Niles Ph. D Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ
Outline • Elegance in Nature – the yearly dance of shorebird and horseshoe crabs on Delaware Bay • Unraveling the knot: The collapse of the Delaware Bay stopover, the rise of the new market hunters • déjà vu all over again – the collapse of game populations in the 30’s and the rise of American Conservationists • A new era of conservation – a progressive agenda
• Delaware Bay supports the largest population of breeding horseshoe crabs in the world. Horseshoe crabs breed in densities so dense that when they dig to lay their eggs they bring previously laid eggs to the surface, where birds can eat them. PPIller. Befew-Tgailliffrni*W-gr"J"SIWPyr-' • WI • - • 21 7: • -r!7; , T-t 7 - 4
These dense eggs are fat-rich and easily available to shorebirds arriving to the bay from South American wintering sites. They will fuel the flight to the Arctic breeding grounds with these eggs.
Compare the fat red knot with the skinny bird. In june, when this was taken, the skinning bird will have no chance of breeding and could die on the way to the Arctic. (Clip from Crash: A tale of two species, an episode of PBS Nature.
Light sensitive geolocator are tiny devices that record light levels and time thus allowing an estimate of location using techniques familiar to navigators using sextants. With them we have discovered new migratory pathways and uncovered previously unknown behaviors
Map of bird YOY – making a 6 day non-stop flight across the Amazon Basin and the Caribbean ultimately landing on the shores of Delaware Bay
8 red knots from one flock were instrumented with Geolocators while stopping over on Monomoy USFWS Refuge on Cape Cod. They were recaptured a year later in one flock on Monomoy, but each bird had spent the winter in a different place from Venezuela to Maryland.
Red Knots seen on Padre Island TX were originally thought to be wintering in South America, because none were seen wintering in TX. Data from recovered geolocators first proved they wintered in TX, than in in Panama and Mexico. These data also proved canutus rufa and canutus rosallarii red knot, the east and west coast subspecies of red knot, both occurred in Texas.
These new data give voice to a complex and adaptive animal driven by courage and determination to play out its purpose in life. The data also provides a graphic reminder of how simple it would be to destroy this noble bird.
It took only a few years to overharvest horseshoe crabs because crabs need a long time to recover from harvest. It take ten years for a crab to become a breeding adult. The harvest was insignificant until the crab became a target for the industrialized fishery of the mid-Atlantic. In 1994 -95 the same fishery that destroyed the cod and many other Atlantic Coast fish focused on horseshoe crabs
By 1998 the harvest has climbed from 100, 000 to 2, 500, 000. In a few years the industry had unwound the Delaware Bay stopover for which they felt no responsibility. They’re goal was money
In the 12 years of the crab population’s decimation, short sighted exploitation became the norm for Cape May Fishing Industry, their combined income climbing 200%. This greedy and short sighted exploitation benefitted few fishermen, most take home less pay than most Americans and die at faster rates on the job. . The blood money went to businessmen and politicians, not fishermen
The Agencies offered only industry favored solutions that left little for the birds.
After 12 years of inadequate regulation, there is still no recovery of horseshoe crabs, even for females, a group that should be unharvested. The industry and agencies seem comfortable with their recovery target of up to one hundred years!
The knot may not be able to wait that long. Now a candidate for Federal Listing, the cost of restoring red knots will not fall on the industry that caused the collapse That will fall to bayshore and Atlantic Coast communities that gained nothing from the over-exploitation.
How Could this happen?
Overharvest is the rule in industrialized fishery of Delaware Bay - Atlantic Sturgeon once abundant on the bay are now federally listed and the weakfisheries is virtually close from overharvest Atlantic Sturgeon harvest Weakfish 200, 000 150, 000 pounds 100, 000 50, 000 1952 1954 1956 1958 1960 1962 1964 1966 1968 1970 1972 1974 1976 1978 1980 1982 1984 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 0 10, 000 9, 000 8, 000 7, 000 6, 000 5, 000 4, 000 3, 000 2, 000 1, 000 0 Pounds 1950 1953 1956 1959 1962 1965 1968 1971 1974 1977 1980 1983 1986 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 2007 2010 GRAND TOTALS: 250, 000
No longer satisfied with destroying the predator fish the industry wants the prey Menhaden (bunker) exploitation is following the same route as the horseshoe crabs
Moreover Red Knots Represent A Much Larger Problem – a result in our management of our coastal habitats Climate Change, Poor Coastal Planning, Damaging Public Use , poorly managed fisheries have led to a larger collapse of most arctic nesting shorebird species like the red knot
A whole group of species is on the verge of collapse. This happened before! During the early 1900’s game were market hunting and poorly managed bringing many species to edge of extinction. Including waterfowl and other migratory species
By the 1930’s, the problem of mismanagement and overharvest kept waterfowl populations on the verge of collapse. Waterfowl were saved by a political cartoonist Ding Darling and other American Conservationists when they created a movement that underpins game protection to this day
In the midst of the Depression they created the first Duck Stamp and new hunting regulations and fees as well as taxes on all equipment • • • The funds still grow pumping $700 million/year into habitat conservation Nearly 5, 200, 000 acres were saved Millions of registered sportsmen in every state, fight for the conservation of game
This worked well until the 1970’s than broad- based conservation was derrailed Anti-sportsmen activists have sidelined sportsmen’s broader conservation by forcing them to defend hunting and fishing Pushing them into the extended arms of extreme right - Only 18 Percent US Gun Owners Are Hunters *
At the same time most people who love birds do nothing • 8 million people live in NJ • 794 k hunters and fishermen – buy licenses, pay special taxes – NJ Federation of Sportsmen represents 150, 000 • 1. 9 million wildlife watchers – 605 k leave home < – 30, 000 NJ Audubon – no licenses, permits or special taxes • Divided and neutralized – The two groups are divided by animal rights, feral cat management, anti-hunting, anti-trapping and other sensitive issues
Left/Right Conservation Conumdrum • The broader conservation championed by liberals see it as the job of government • But government agencies primarily funded by conservative leaning sportsmen has different priorities • Current funding for government based conservation rapidly dwindling and unlikely to return What Can Be Done?
We Need a New Approach to Conservation Five Paths to Conservation 1. Re-unite conservationists by endorsing hunting and fishing no matter your personal feelings 2. Create a powerful new constituency with a state birding stamp and taxed equipment 3. Use this new power to assert more control over agencies 4. Create new pathways to experience and handle wildlife directlytagging programs, rescue programs, resightings programs 5. Create market friendly solutions to intractable problems that create good paying jobs
A New Conservation Agenda for this Century NY and NJ State Audubon can lead us to a new era of conservation • Don’t tolerate hunting, endorse it! – remove the need for hunters to focus on the right to hunt – Rebuild a new powerbase of conservationists
A New Conservation Agenda for this Century Build a Powerful Conservation Constituency NJ 22% of 8. 8 million PA 46% of 8. 3 million • Every member of any conservation group should enroll five new members • New Social marketing program dedicated to building membership in all conservation groups to 1 in 5 of all residents Create the political power to force action
A New Conservation Agenda for this Century NY and NJ State Audubon can lead us to a new era of conservation Use expanded membership to create new sources stable funding for non-government conservation groups • state conservation stamp for all conservation lands • a state tax on binoculars and cameras With new consistent funding conservation groups can join agencies in creating new conservation
A New Conservation Agenda for this Century NY and NJ State Audubon can lead us to a new era of conservation Create new solutions to intractable problems that make sense to all people • develop market based solutions to intractable problems • Embrace the needs of local people by creating good paying jobs and embracing practical needs • Find meaningful roles for all people who wish to participate
Moores Beach before Example of a project that can solve a problem while involving people, creating jobs. - The Restoration of Horseshoe Crab Habitat after the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy Moores Beach after Kimbles Beach before Kimbles Beach after
This Beaches were ruined by Sandy but the degradation of bay beaches has been going on for years. We restored 5 beaches –on budget, ontime and successfully - our beaches outperformed control and Unrestored Beaches: More birds and crabs…
We learned that sand moves within the original restoration profile and when it moves outside… It moves to creek shoals where it created even better crab spawning habitat.
20 years ago we added another coastal species, the piping plover, to the endangered species list and it led to conflict, huge costs to communities and little progress – there are now less piping plovers in NJ than when it was first listed.
Now with the Red Knot we might have another chance to create a more successful approach to recovery * Thank You
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