May 2014 Conservation Report
- Last Updated: May 12, 2014
Fewer fish mean fewer marine birds. Two years ago National Audubon issued its Strategic Plan 2012-2015 laying out broad conservation themes within a flyway-based geographical approach. Among other things, the plan has led to significant improvements in communication among state Audubon groups and chapters. Here in Washington, the decision was made to focus the largest conservation efforts on marine birds first, given their significance in the Pacific Flyway. Dr. Trina Bayard, Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Washington, has drafted a plan very relevant to Skagit Audubon titled Audubon Washington Coastal Campaign: Marine Birds and Fish. The Fish in the title are forage fish, little ones comprising the main diet of many seabirds and certain waterfowl species wintering in Puget Sound and the nearby bays and straits. Some of these birds, such as pigeon guillemots, live here year-round. Studies show many marine bird populations are declining, and a parallel decline in forage fish may be one reason. The proposed Audubon campaign would support more research into the status of forage fish populations and their sufficiency for the dietary needs of bird populations. We know places in Skagit County such as Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve are important spawning areas for three principal forage fish: Pacific herring, surf smelt, and Pacific sand lance. We also know that armoring shorelines around much of Puget Sound and the bays has deprived beaches of replenishment from feeder bluffs with resulting loss of conditions that smelt and sand lance need to spawn. And we know that removal of shade trees from shoreline areas dries and kills the eggs of these fish. Audubon’s proposed campaign includes public education about shoreline management with ways home owners can help marine birds by helping forage fish. As a start on this campaign, Audubon Washington has drafted comment letters to federal and state agencies now working on regulating forage fish harvest. Skagit Audubon is adding its support.
To better address conservation issues relevant to Audubon, I’d like to gather email addresses of members interested in being alerted to opportunities to comment. I’m also recruiting members to form a Conservation Committee to help develop our chapter’s response to issues. Please contact me if you are interested in either or both of these: Tim Manns at email@example.com