Celebrates 25 Year Anniversary and Re-dedication on May 9, 2011

On May 9, 2011, the Hemispheric importance of Delaware Bay to migratory shorebirds will be both celebrated and reaffirmed at a ceremony in the historic bayshore community of Bivalve. Hosted by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) and The South Jersey Bayshore Coalition, the event will highlight Delaware Bay’s natural resources and its global significance to migrating shorebirds, a bird group whose population decline have alarmed researchers and whose strategy for survival is tied to the bay and its resources.

To underscore the significance of the occasion, Henry M. Paulson, Jr., conservationist and 74th Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, will be keynote speaker. Congressman Frank LoBiondo will offer his welcome to the district. Other speakers will include Larry Niles of the Shorebird Project, Pete Dunne of New Jersey Audubon, and Phillip M. Hoose, National Book Award winner.

Niles, former chief of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Endangered and Nongame Species program, has spent two decades studying shorebird populations in Delaware Bay and working to insure that their resource needs are met. His presentation will focus upon the status of shorebird populations and the challenges they face. Dunne, who was part of a team which first promoted the importance of Delaware Bay to migrating shorebirds, will offer a historic perspective, recounting the abundance of birds before populations began their decline in the late 1980s.

At least six shorebird species use the bay as a last major stopover point as they complete their journey to arctic breeding areas. These include Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, and Semipalmated Sandpiper. All of these species have experienced a decline in their overall population. Two species, Red Knot and Semipalmated Sandpiper, have seen their populations fall by as much as 80%. These estimates are based upon aerial surveys conducted in Delaware Bay by the New Jersey Non-game and Endangered Species Project and surveys of wintering populations coordinated by Niles on Red Knot, and for Semipalmated Sandpiper by a team of New Jersey Audubon and Canadian Wildlife Service personnel, working in Suriname, French Guiana, and Brazil led by Dr. David Mizrahi of NJ Audubon.

The story of the Red Knot, whose round-trip journey to and from arctic breeding areas and wintering grounds in Tierra del Fuego covers 18,000 miles, has been featured in the PBS Nature Film, “Crash: A Tale of Two Species.” The plight of the smaller, Semipalmated Sandpiper, may be even more dire. Where Red Knot has a cosmopolitan distribution, the Semipalmated Sandpiper is unique to the Western Hemisphere. The birds that gather in Delaware Bay every spring constitute a significant portion of the total world population.

It is precisely for the protection of our shorebird resource that Delaware Bay was designated the first WHSRN Site of Hemispheric Importance in May 1986, by proclamation of the Governors of New Jersey and Delaware, Tom Kean and Michael Castle, respectively. Since then, 84 sites in 13 countries from the Canadian Arctic to the tip of South America have been similarly recognized.

Looking ahead to the event, keynote speaker Paulson noted that he is pleased to take part in the rededication. “Delaware Bay is an important piece of our nation’s rich natural heritage,” he observes. “The collective efforts of partners like the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network and the South Jersey Bayshore Coalition are to be applauded for their conservation of this treasured place.”

“Delaware Bay is vital to human well-being and the natural world,” says Charles Duncan, who directs WHSRN’s Executive Office and leads the Shorebird Recovery Project at Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences. We celebrate those visionaries who, 25 years ago, created WHSRN as a voluntary approach to protecting the Bay. The people of Delaware and New Jersey can feel proud about the vision and effort that have gone into the stewardship of this important site.”

“An importance that grows as shorebird numbers fall,” observes Pete Dunne. “It is under the specter of this decline that the 25th Anniversary Celebration will rededicate the resource and shorebird protection efforts both here, in Delaware Bay, and across the Western Hemisphere.”

“The Delaware Bayshore ranks among North America’s last, great wild places,” adds Dunne, whose most recent book, Bayshore Summer (Houghton-Mifflin-Harcort, 2010) is a tribute to the bay, its resources, and original Native Americans followed by the European settlers who have lived along its banks for nearly four centuries. “Lying within a tank of gas of 60,000,000 people, the riches of the bay are a recreational as well as a natural resource. May is the month Delaware Bay becomes a world stage. Shorebirds and horseshoe crabs stand as actors in an extraordinary drama whose theme is survival. It is a spectacle none should miss.”

Between May 5 and June 10, visitors can view the concentrations of crabs and birds at designated viewing sites in Cape May and Cumberland Counties. For information about Delaware Bay shorebird viewing sites go to www.state.nj.us/dep/fgov/ensp/shorebird_info.htm Those wishing to register for the May 9 celebration, rededicating of Delaware Bay as a Site of Hemispheric Importance are encouraged to visit www.manomet.org

About WHSRN: The Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network is the oldest hemispheric-scale voluntary conservation collaborative in the world. Its mission is the conservation of shorebirds species and their habitats.

About South Jersey Bayshore Coalition: The South Jersey Bayshore Coalition is a group of nonprofit organizations working to preserve the cultural heritage and environmental integrity of the Bayshore. They include: America Littoral Society, Association of NJ Environmental Commissions, Bayshore Discovery Project, Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and Its Tributaries, Inc., Cohansey Area River Preservation, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Environment New Jersey, Natural Lands Trust, NJ Audubon, NJ Conservation Foundation, NJ Environmental Federation, NJ Sierra Club, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Pinelands Preservation Alliance, Plan “Smart NJ, Salem County Watershed Task Force, and South Jersey Land and Water Trust. Supporting Organizations: National Park Service, and The Nature Conservancy.