|Nial Moores さん|
The Saemangeum area, comprising the estuaries of the Mangyeung and Dongjin rivers on the west coast of South Korea, has been identified as the single most important known site for migratory shorebirds in the whole of the Yellow Sea, itself a core region on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. The area supports huge numbers of migrating shorebirds moving between non-breeding areas in Australasia and SE Asia, to breed in Siberia and Alaska (Barter, 2002). The whole Saemangeum system has been targeted for reclamation, provoking one of the most prolonged and intensive environmental campaigns in South Korea’s history. The campaign included several court cases, which failed to prevent the reclamation because the courts considered that any environmental impacts (focused almost entirely on water quality) were possible to mitigate. Court plaintiffs did not demand conservation of the site based on its international importance to biodiversity, largely due to lack of data. The 33-km long seawall was completed in April 2006, and the neighboring Geum Estuary is now targeted for reclamation. Most public opposition to the reclamation has now fallen silent, and no program has been put in place by government or independent institutions to monitor the impacts of the reclamation on shorebirds (or most other biota), despite the site’s clear international importance, despite South Korea’s accession to both the Ramsar Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity, and despite South Korea recently signing a bilateral bird conservation treaty with Australia. Moreover, project proponents, largely unchallenged, have stated repeatedly that the Saemangeum reclamation will not impact migratory shorebirds, as such birds will simply move to the Geum estuary and Gomso Bay instead. The Saemangeum Shorebird Monitoring Program (SSMP) a joint initiative of the domestic organization Birds Korea and the international Australasian Wader Studies Group (a special interest group of Birds Australia), is a deeply considered response to this. It is a three-year program (2006-2008) designed to monitor and publicise the impacts of the Saemangeum reclamation on populations of migratory shorebirds. The SSMP entails near-daily counts of shorebirds by experienced volunteers within the 40,100 ha Saemangeum reclamation area, and adjacent wetlands (the Geum Estuary and Gomso Bay), throughout the northward migration period (April and May), supported by searches for marked birds and assessment of changes to their habitat. Results of fieldwork in 2006, as in 2007 and 2008, were made freely and easily available, though use of internet, media and publication in a series of reports and papers, as well as through presentation at open workshops and training days. The data are also being meshed into ongoing research being conducted in Australasia, focusing on populations of Yellow Sea-dependent shorebirds. While the research in 2006 suggested that shorebirds took advantage of dying shellfish to feed and were able to continue their migration on schedule, we believe that the impacts will become very severe in 2007 and 2008, provoking a likely measurable decline, not only at the local level, but also at the Flyway-Population level, in one or probably more shorebird species. While the SSMP might be ineffective in preventing the continued degradation of the Saemangeum area it has already become a very useful tool in challenging the proposed reclamation of the Geum Estuary, and in galvanising specialist opinion against large-scale reclamation, not only in Korea but throughout the Flyway. The final report, detailing changes to Saemangeum and the numbers of shorebirds once dependent upon it, will be published in September 2008. It will be made widely available to media and attendees of the Ramsar Convention’s Tenth Conference of the Parties, to be held in South Korea the following month: an extremely strategic opportunity to induce a major shift in policy away from reclamation toward tidal-flat conservation, in line with Ramsar resolution 7.21.