Exhausted after battling Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Maria on their long flight over the Atlantic Ocean in 2011, two whimbrels approached the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, an important migratory stopover site. There, hunters legally shot and killed the satellite-tagged birds, named Machi and Goshen. Unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence. “Large numbers of shorebirds are shot annually for sport and sustenance” on Guadeloupe and nearby Martinique, with no regard to species, says Matt Jeffery, program manager of Audubon’s International Alliances Program. The estimated 20,000 annual avian mortalities may contribute to global shorebird declines. The high-profile whimbrel deaths spurred officials to take action. On Martinique, the French government enacted a three- year moratorium on shooting whimbrels and Hudsonian godwits this year. Guadeloupe now has a bag limit of 20 birds per day, per hunter. And on both islands hunting red knots is banned. Poachers face a maximum penalty of six months in prison, a $20,000 fine, and losing their gun. “Changing hunting tradition is hard,” says Jeffery, but the new restrictions are a shot in the right direction.
This story originally ran in the November-December 2013 issue as "Safer Haven."