The Netherlands: gas corporate threat to Wadden Sea bird area

Red knot

From BirdLife, with some spelling mistakes corrected:

Gas threat to Wadden Sea


Vogelbescherming Nederland (VBN, BirdLife in the Netherlands) is to lodge an appeal against a permit authorising natural gas extraction in the Wadden Sea.

The largest intertidal area in Europe, the Wadden Sea is recognised by BirdLife as an Important Bird Area and by the European Union as a Natura 2000 area.

But the habitat is already in poor condition, and gas extraction would cause further subsidence of the sands on which large numbers of migratory birds depend.

“This internationally important natural reserve is in a deplorable state,” said Hans Peeters, VBN’s Communications Officer.

For this reason, the Dutch government has drawn up a strategy for the preservation and restoration of the habitat, particularly the dry high sands, which are vital for birds like Red Knot and Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegu[s].

“The intended gas extraction will put pressure on this strategic objective,” Peeters explained.

“It is expected that up to 2024 a periodic deterioration of the surface of the high sands will take place.

This decline will therefore hinder the natural restoration of the Wadden Sea for a longer period of time.”

To compensate for the drop in sand levels, sand from elsewhere along the coast would be dumped into the sea.

This would suffocate the invertebrates on which birds like Common Scoter Melannita nigra and Common Eider Somateria mollissima depend.

Red knots and horseshoe crabs: here.

6 thoughts on “The Netherlands: gas corporate threat to Wadden Sea bird area

  1. New Jersey protects crab to save rare shore bird
    Wed Mar 26, 2008 8:33am EDT

    By Jon Hurdle

    TRENTON, New Jersey (Reuters) – New Jersey acted to save a rare shore bird on Tuesday, banning the harvest of horseshoe crabs whose eggs are an essential nutrient for the red knot on its 10,000-mile (16,000-km) annual migration.

    New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine signed a law that bans the horseshoe crab harvest until both the crab and red knot populations have returned to sustainable levels, as determined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    The red knot stops on the New Jersey and Delaware beaches of the Delaware Bay each spring on its migration from the southern tip of South America to breeding grounds in Arctic Canada, one of the longest migrations in the avian world.

    The bird’s population has plummeted to around 15,000, well below the level of about 100,000 ornithologists believe is necessary for the species to sustain itself.

    Many birds have recently been unable to find food because the crab population has been decimated since the early 1990s by fishermen, who use the crustaceans as bait.

    At an average of 10 inches long and weighing about 4.7 ounces (135 grams), the birds will gorge themselves on the eggs, replenishing their fat reserves to complete their epic migration.

    Some birds starve while others fail to reach the Arctic, or if they do, are too exhausted to breed, scientists say.

    Dr. Larry Niles, a biologist who has worked on the red knot since the 1980s, said the law is the most important step yet to protect the bird, although it is still vulnerable to other factors beyond New Jersey’s control, such as bad weather in its Arctic breeding grounds.

    Niles said he expects the population to “skim along the bottom” for another two or three years but then show signs of recovery, thanks to the new law.

    “If things go wrong in other places, at least we know we did the best that we could do,” Niles said.

    (Editing by Daniel Trotta and Sandra Maler)


  2. Shorebird feeding beach restored

    Corps adds replenishment to Mispillion dredging job

    By MOLLY MURRAY • The News Journal • October 12, 2009

    Delaware Bay’s most productive horseshoe crab spawning beach — and also the area with last spring’s highest concentrations of migratory shorebirds — was washing away, inundated by each high tide.

    But late last month, the Army Corps of Engineers combined a maintenance dredging project in the Mispillion Inlet and Harbor with a beach renourishment project to hold off the erosion of the narrow sand spit, at least for a while.

    The maintenance dredging cost $650,000. Fixing the federally owned jetty and restoring the beach cost another $186,000.

    “For me, the critical thing was just to be able to save that spot,” said Kevin Kalasz, a wildlife biologist with the Delaware Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. “Mispillion Harbor routinely has the highest horseshoe crab egg densities in the Delaware Bay, attracting the greatest concentrations of red knots and other shorebirds to its shores. This makes the area one of the most important sites for shorebird conservation not only in Delaware, but also in the entire Atlantic Coast flyway.”

    Ironically, the sandy spit of land is manmade, but in recent years it has become the hot spot for the spawning crabs and migrating birds.

    The area is sheltered and even in strong winds provides the crabs a spot to lay their pearly green eggs.

    A bounty of eggs draws the migratory birds.

    Kalasz said he noticed an erosion problem there after the Mother’s Day weekend storm in May 2008.

    Then, this year, as scientists were monitoring the crab spawning and bird migration, they discovered that there was little dry sand at high tide at one end of the sand spit. A breach in the rock jetty allowed water from Delaware Bay to flood the beach.

    While shorebirds feed most heavily at low tide, they also need roosting areas to rest and digest their food between the low-tide feeding frenzies.

    The biologists noticed the problem during the May shorebird migration, but things got worse a few weeks later when the area was pounded with wind and waves in late-season storms.

    “It was really surprising to all of us,” said Charles Myers, Mispillion Harbor project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers.
    The American Red Cross

    Myers said he had been in the area in May and had seen all the shorebirds flying around. A month later, he was contacted by state environmental officials because of the rapidly escalating erosion problem.

    The corps was already going through a state permit application to do maintenance dredging in the inlet.

    So state and federal officials sat down and brainstormed.

    The corps was planning to remove two shoal areas — one from Mispillion Inlet and the other from Cedar Creek, he said.

    The problem, though, was that the material on the two shoals wasn’t suitable for beach renourishment.

    It was fine sand, mud and silt — not the coarse-grained sand and pebbles that made the sand spit such an attractive location for spawning horseshoe crabs, said Bartholomew Wilson, a geologist with Delaware Coastal Programs.

    In recent years, the state coastal programs office has made detailed maps of the Delaware Bay bottom.

    The idea was to be able to use them to protect critical habitat on the bay floor and to pinpoint resources like sand, he said.

    Wilson, who worked on the mapping project, set out to see if there was a nearby sand source that could be tapped for the beach repair project. They used the maps, followed by core sampling.

    They found one spot, but it turned out to be near an old bombing range. Another spot had a muddy bottom.

    Then, on the south side of the Mispillion Inlet, Wilson found a spot with coarse sand and gravel.

    “It wouldn’t be good for a recreational beach, but for horseshoe crabs, it was perfect,” he said.

    The state and federal agencies worked together. Myers found some additional money to add to the maintenance dredging project — money that paid for the sand to be pumped onto the beach for restoration.

    “This essentially is two projects for the price of one,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Tickner, Philadelphia District commander for the corps.

    While the work cost a little more, it was less expensive in the long run because state and federal officials didn’t have to pay to remobilize the dredge, a significant cost savings, Wilson said.

    The corps contracted with Southwind Construction Corp. of Evansville, Ind., to do the maintenance dredging and jetty and beach repair work.

    The silt and mud from the dredging were placed on the northern end of the island.

    Wilson said it will migrate to the north and provide sediment to naturally rebuild eroding marshes along the bay shoreline.

    Wilson and Kalasz said the beach repair is a temporary solution.

    State and federal officials are looking into a long-term fix.

    In the meantime, Kalasz said, there also is interest in creating other horseshoe crab spawning habitats along the Delaware Bay shore.


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