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South Korea destruction warning

Report warns of shorebird extinctions

A report presented in South Korea today outlines the country’s importance as a key re-fuelling stop for Globally Threatened migratory birds. It provides clear evidence that substantial declines are taking place in shorebirds populations in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, and that the world’s largest reclamation project could be driving Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus towards extinction.

The joint Birds Korea / Australasian Wader Studies Group report entitled ‘Saemangeum Shorebird Monitoring Program Report’ was presented in Changwon, South Korea today at the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The Australasian Wader Studies Group is a Special Interest Group of Birds Australia (BirdLife in Australia).

Saemangeum is one of the most important shorebird sites within the Yellow Sea and is being reclaimed for development, putting hundreds of thousands of migratory birds under threat. The 40,100 ha construction project on the west coast of South Korea involves damming the estuaries of the Mangyeung and Dongjin Rivers with a vast 33-km long seawall.“The results of three years survey work clearly shows that there have been massive falls in shorebird numbers at Saemangeum”, warned Nial Moores – Birds Korea. “Saemangeum used to support the largest-known congregations of Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Endangered Spotted Greenshank Tringa guttifer, and its destruction could be a major factor in driving these birds towards extinction.

The report presents evidence that the reclamation at Saemangeum alone may have caused a 20% drop in the global population of Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris, which winter in Australia, meaning that another shorebird species could soon become globally threatened”,
said Alison Russell-French, Birds Australia’s President. The report also warns that there have also been severe impacts on the livelihoods of the many local people who relied on the fisheries at Saemangeum.

“We urge the governments of South Korea and China to carefully assess the findings in this report, and fully consider the impacts of coastal development on wetland biodiversity”, said Dr Mike Rands – BirdLife’s Director & Chief Executive.“There are still opportunities to mitigate the impacts of the Saemangeum project and restore much of its biodiversity for the benefit of people and all life on Earth”, commented Nial Moores. “Action must be taken soon. Once these magnificent mudflat habitats are lost, the biodiversity they support can never be recovered”.

Birds Korea is dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats in South Korea and the wider Yellow Sea Eco-region. The Australasian Wader Studies Group aims to ensure the future of waders and their habitats in Australia through research and conservation programs and to encourage and assist similar programs in the rest of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.

4th July 2014