What a Shorebird Can Teach Us Concerning the Biodiversity Crisis


Update | Nov. 15, 2022: In response to public outcry, the commission voted to approve the brand new model, but didn’t authorize a female horseshoe crab harvest for 2023. Nearly 25,000 Earthjustice supporters (and 34,000 people overall) submitted comments urging the body to take a cautious approach for each horseshoe crabs and red knots. The commission noted that its decision was in response to this public comment process. Earthjustice and its partners will proceed to advocate to revive the Delaware Bay ecosystem.

Original text | Aug. 25, 2022: Every yr, the red knot shorebird completes one of the vital epic migrations within the animal kingdom.

Red knots commonly fly from the southern tip of South America, in Tierra del Fuego, all of the solution to their breeding grounds within the Arctic Circle. For a lot of hundreds of red knots, this greater than 9,000-mile journey includes a vital stop in Delaware Bay, where the birds replenish with horseshoe crab eggs before completing their migrations.

Unfortunately, due largely to the overharvesting of horseshoe crabs by the fishing industry, there haven’t been enough eggs lately. As horseshoe crab numbers languish, the shorebird — which is threatened under the Endangered Species Act — has suffered as well. Yet a regional fisheries commission is now weighing a proposal that might leave the red knot with even less to eat. Earthjustice and other environmental groups are urging it to comply with the law and reject this plan.

Horseshoe crab within the Delaware Bay near Fortescue, Latest Jersey, on May 23, 2022.

Aristide Economopoulos for Earthjustice

A growing body of evidence indicates that many red knots are actually bypassing Delaware Bay altogether, and the much-needed nourishment the region once provided, because the egg resources on the bay aren’t any longer reliable for the birds. This yr, researchers from the Delaware Bay Shorebird Project counted just 12,000 birds at their peak — lower than half the 2019 peak of 30,000 and a fraction of the height population of over 94,000 in 1989.

This story shouldn’t be unique to the red knot. Throughout the animal kingdom, increasing pressures from industry are putting endangered species in danger. Habitat destruction is the most important driver of biodiversity loss globally. Roughly 1,000,000 of the Earth’s estimated 8 million species are threatened with extinction in the approaching a long time. Protecting the various range of species and the habitat on which they rely is more necessary than ever.

Slightly than working to extend protections for red knots, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is advancing a proposal that will likely result in lifting the prohibition on killing female horseshoe crabs to be used as fishing bait. Latest Jersey Audubon, Defenders of Wildlife, and Earthjustice have raised the alarm on this proposal, since killing female crabs would, after all, only add to the issue of egg scarcity that’s depleting the migratory stopover.

Researchers from Wildlife Restoration Partnerships study semipalmated sandpipers and other shorebirds as they come through the Delaware Bay in May 2022.

Researchers from Wildlife Restoration Partnerships study semipalmated sandpipers and other shorebirds as they arrive through the Delaware Bay in May 2022.

Aristide Economopoulos for Earthjustice

The commission will likely make a final decision on the proposal in November, and to this point, it has acted without transparency. Earthjustice recently sent a letter on behalf of Latest Jersey Audubon and Defenders of Wildlife, requesting that the general public have ample opportunity to review the model upon which the proposal relies before ASMFC moved forward with opening its public comment period. Unfortunately, ASMFC has now opened the comment period, and the U.S. Geological Survey, which controls the model, has denied our request to acquire the model under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — a call that now we have appealed. (Editor’s Note: Latest evaluation has uncovered significant technical flaws within the model.)

It is commonly easy for presidency agencies to make decisions that favor industry on the expense of a vulnerable species — and to accomplish that without properly informing the general public. As these losses proceed to mount globally, we are actually faced with a biodiversity crisis as epic in scale because the red knot’s migration.

Species in our natural world are critically depending on each other for survival. ASMFC cannot move forward with a proposal that may significantly impact horseshoe crabs in Delaware Bay without also harming the already threatened shorebird that has traveled halfway around the globe to feast on its shores. The 2 are inextricably linked. It’s one of the vital incredible spectacles within the natural world — the spawning of lots of of hundreds of horseshoe crabs coinciding perfectly with the arrival of the red knots, providing the population the precise nourishment needed to proceed their journey to the Arctic. That a fisheries commission would risk destroying this for the advantage of industry is each short-sighted and incomprehensible.

The Endangered Species Act entitles the threatened red knot to protections, which ASMFC is now jeopardizing. It’s as much as all of us to proceed to fight this proposal that threatens further decline of this magnificent bird.

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