7th Meeting of Partners to the East Asian – Australasian Flyway Partnership


The 7th Meeting of Partners (MoP7) to the East Asian – Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP), a Ramsar Regional Initiative, was recently held in Anchorage and Seward, Alaska (USA) from 10 to 14 June 2013.

The EAAFP works to conserve migratory waterbirds, their habitat and the livelihoods of people dependent upon those habitats in the EAAF region, and is currently made up of 30 Partners, including national governments, inter-government organizations, NGOs and the international business community. At the start of MoP7, a ceremony was held to mark the addition of three new Partners, these being the Government of Malaysia, the Conservation of Arctic Fauna and Flora, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Some 50 million waterbirds, including 33 globally threatened species, migrate annually along the EAAF from their breeding grounds in Alaska and the Russian Far East in the north, to their non-wintering grounds in Australia and New Zealand to the south, and westward as far as Bangladesh. Along this route, over 1,000 sites have so far been identified as being important for migratory waterbirds and of these, 113 have been officially recognized by being added onto the EAAFP’s Flyway Site Network. During MoP7, celebrations were also held for five new sites that were added to the EAAFP’s Flyway Site Network. These were Arao-higata (Japan), Bako Buntal Bay (Malaysia), Eighty-Mile Beach and Roebuck Bay (Australia), and Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge (USA).

Curlew Sandpiper © Jan van de Kam

The inter-tidal mudflat around the Yellow Sea is one of the key ecoregions used by migratory waterbirds in the EAAF, especially shorebirds, to stop-over or to winter as part of their annual migration. However, participants at MoP7 heard how some 65% of these critical mudflat areas have been lost since the 1950’s due to reclamation for development. As a result, surveys of shorebird wintering sites in Australia has shown that for certain species that stop-over around the Yellow Sea such as the Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea, their population has been declining at a rate of up to 8% annually and over the past 20 years, there has been a 75% decline in numbers.

A Yellow Sea Task Force has been established by the EAAFP to look into how to reduce the loss of inter-tidal habitat and to conserve the priority areas. The task is obviously complex and involves action at the local and national level, and between a range of stakeholders. However, representatives of the national governments that border the Yellow Sea and who were present at the meeting, agreed to continue working to raise awareness of the issue at the national level. This would include holding workshops and promoting discussion and cooperation between the government departments with responsibility for the conservation and management of the coastal areas.

MoP7 also discussed the conservation of other threatened migratory waterbird species found in the EAAF, such as the Baer’s Pochard Aythya baeri. The species had a historical range from eastern Russia to south-east Asia and one hundred years ago, they were said to have been ‘extremely abundant’ whilst on migration through China. However, their population is be less than 1,000 individual and maybe as low as 100. The meeting agreed to establish a Task Force for the conservation of the species and that a recovery plan should be drafted as soon as possible whilst field surveys are carried out to search for the species along its range.

Meeting in progress

The importance of communicating the information shared at the meeting was also recognized and as a first step towards this, Partners were asked to contribute short case studies about their work for uploading onto the website of the Partnership (http://www.eaaflyway.net/). So have a look at the website when you have time!

Coastal development on the tidal flats of the Yellow Sea © David Melville

Report by Lew Young, Senior Regional Advisor for Asia-Oceania

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