Sunday, February 24, 2008

Red knot update

There's been some encouraging movement in New Jersey on the dire situation regarding red knots and overharvested horseshoe crabs. Since the NJ Marine Fisheries Council voted 5-4 to lift a moratorium on crab harvests on Feb. 11, there has been a bipartisan movement in the state legislature to institute a permanent harvest ban.

You can read updates on the situation from New Jersey Audubon here. And you can read a recent news report from the Asbury Park News and a far less objective piece from the Press of Atlantic City, which focuses only on the watermen's views. (One could argue, for example, that a resource management council comprised primarily of commercial fin-fishermen, shellfisherman and fish processors constitutes a "special interest" of just the sort criticized.)

1 comment:

muddy waters said...

Article from Phila. Inquirer on Feb. 28:
Emergency help for red knots?

By Sandy Bauers

Nine conservation groups have filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, asking for emergency action to protect the red knot, a shorebird that migrates through Delaware Bay every spring.

They want to see it listed as either threatened or endangered.

On the bay, the red knot depends on horseshoe crab eggs for refueling so it can contine its flight of nearly 10,000 miles from the tip of South America to its nesting grounds in the Arctic.

The crabs spawn in May, just as the birds arrive. But with intense harvesting of the crabs beginning in the 1990s, the availability of eggs has declined. Meanwhile, the red knot population has plummeted; computer models have shown it could go extinct by 2010.

A new report, released yesterday and written by 20 shorebird biologists from around the world, found that many birds were not gaining weight like they should, which would reduce their chances of surviving the trip to the Arctic or breeding successfully once there.

The report also documented continuing red knot declines. The main wintering population in Tierra del Fuego, Chile, declined about 15 percent over the past year, to 14,800 birds.

The service had denied a similar petition for an emergency listing of the bird in 2005. In September of 2006, it named the bird a "candidate" for listing, meaning that it warranted protection, but that other species took priority.

The conservation groups include New Jersey Audubon, Delaware Audubon, Delaware Nature Society, American Bird Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife.

"The science was clear years ago that the red knot faces imminent extinction," Jason Ryland, staff attorney with Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statment. "The causes of the red knot's decline have only gotten worse. . . . The most recent information leaves no doubt that the service should list it immediately."

The petition was accompanied by a letter from U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ). They said listing the red knot would lead to "a true recovery plan, instead of the piecemeal we have now."

Currently, a regional fisheries agency, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, allows a males-only harvest of 100,000 crabs in New Jersey, the same in Delaware.

States can pass more stringent rules, however. New Jersey had a two-year moratorium that expired recently. A proposal by the Department of Environmental Protection to extend the moratorium indefinitely was voted down by a state fisheries commission. Legislation requiring a moratorium has been introduced in both houses of the state legislature.

Delaware had enacted a moratorium, but a state Superior Court judge overturned it last summer.