Urgent action to save shorebirds set for extinction in 30 years

Birdlife Australia

Press release

Today’s Shorebird Summit will agree on ambitious action to halt Australia’s looming shorebird extinction crisis. Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt will address international representatives local conservation groups and scientific experts who are meeting in Melbourne today to urgently address the massive population decline of migratory shorebirds who call Australia home.

“These are Australia’s most magnificent migratory birds, and they are on a trajectory to extinction,” said Samantha Vine, Head of Conservation at BirdLife Australia.

“We have lost 85 percent of some of Australia’s shorebirds in the last 30 years, and if we don’t take action now, many will be gone by 2045.

“Our migratory shorebirds make incredible journeys across the globe every year. They take off from Australia’s coastlines, wetlands and estuaries to spend the mating season on the tundras of Siberia or Alaska. They complete a round trip of more than 20,000 kilometres. Some like the Bar-tailed Godwit make non-stop journeys of over eight days, grabbing microsleeps by briefly shutting down one half of their brain at a time.

“We have 37 Australian migratory shorebird species – they are true international ambassadors. Australia has migratory bird agreements with China, Japan and South Korea and is a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on Migratory Species. At today’s Summit the Environment Minister will launch the Australian Government’s Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds. The Summit will bring together the best minds to discuss how to implement the plan.

“Once common species like the Eastern Curlew and Curlew Sandpiper are now Critically Endangered. Numbers of Curlew Sandpipers have been dropping by ten percent a year, and up to eighty percent have been lost since the 1980s.

“We have teams of volunteers, and scientists around the country who have been sounding the alarm for years about plummeting numbers. Their data have shown that over the past three decades species like the Great Knot has nearly disappeared in many regions, suffering a 77.8 percent decline.

“Industrial and coastal development of habitat is the major contributor to these declines. We need to stop the loss of important shorebird habitat, so we urgently need better accounting mechanisms to ensure this is happening.

“BirdLife Australia convened today’s summit to ensure our response to the Shorebird crisis is coordinated. We hope to inspire Australia to take a leadership role and work closely with the Australian community and international partners to halt this extinction crisis,” said Ms Vine.

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