The migratory shorebirds are now returning to Australia to spend the summer with us. Their annual flights from Siberia and other parts of the Northern Hemisphere along the East-Asian Australasian Flyway are nothing short of astonishing.
But there are fewer of them than ever before. Many of these shorebirds have suffered massive population declines in the last 30 years. The population of the Curlew Sandpiper has declined by up to 80 per cent since the 1980s. Our largest shorebird, the magnificent Eastern Curlew, has crashed by almost 50 per cent in the same time.
All along the Flyway shorebirds are being hit by habitat destruction for ports, industry and housing. They are also suffering from recreational activities on beaches, such as off-road driving, off-leash dogs, and suffering from climate change.
The Australian Government, in response to alarm expressed by Birdlife Australia and other environmental groups, released a draft Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds in August. But the plan has some major flaws.
It does not commit Australia to no net loss of important habitat. It fails to take into account cumulative losses, that is, the collective impacts of multiple threats to our shorebirds. It does not provide for updated migratory shorebird population estimates or the identification of important sites. We need more accurate information. And most importantly, it will not increase international co-operation to protect migratory shorebird habitat. We need to do more to get China and Korea in particular to better protect the shorebirds stopover points in the Yellow Sea.