Service Proposes to List Red Knot as a Threatened Species Under the Endangered Species Act
For Immediate Release
September 27, 2013
Declining food supply and habitat are seen as threats for a remarkable shorebird that migrates thousands of miles each year
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released a proposal to list the rufa red knot (Calidris canutus rufa), a robin-sized shorebird that annually migrates from the Canadian Arctic to southern Argentina, as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The proposed rule will be available for 60 days of public comment.
“The rufa red knot is an extraordinary bird that each year migrates thousands of miles from the Arctic to the tip of South America and back, but – like many shorebirds – it is vulnerable to climate and other environmental changes,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “In some areas, knot populations have declined by about 75 percent since the 1980s, with the steepest declines happening after 2000. We look forward to hearing from the public with any new scientific information as we consider the proposal.”
After an exhaustive scientific review of the species and its habitat, Service biologists determined that the knot meets the definition of threatened, meaning it is likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. The knot, whose range includes 25 countries and 40 U.S. states, uses spring and fall stopover areas along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Changing climate conditions are already affecting the bird’s food supply, the timing of its migration and its breeding habitat in the Arctic. The shorebird also is losing areas along its range due to sea level rise, shoreline projects, and development.
A primary factor in the recent decline of the species was reduced food supplies in Delaware Bay due to commercial harvest of horseshoe crabs. In 2012, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission adopted a management framework that explicitly ties horseshoe crab harvest levels along the Atlantic Coast to knot recovery targets. The Service’s analysis shows that although the horseshoe crab population has not yet fully rebounded, the framework should ensure no further threat to the knot from the crab harvest.
International, state and local governments, the conservation community, beachgoers and land managers are helping ensure knots have safe areas to winter, rest and feed before or along their journey to the Arctic. These partners assist knots in a variety of ways, including managing disturbance in key habitats, improving management of hunting outside the U.S. and collecting data to better understand the knot.