Audubon CEO Dr. Elizabeth Gray Testifies Before U.S. Senate on Coastal Legislation
The hearing covered four coastal bills that would protect people and birds in the face of climate change.
Protecting coastal areas for birds and people
Threatened by climate change, development, overfishing, and pollution, seabird populations around the world have decreased by 70 percent since 1950. In North America alone, shorebird populations have decreased by 70 percent since 1973. Through our national Coasts strategy, Audubon is working to reverse this crisis in four ways:
Coastal Resilience: Rebuilding and strengthening coastlines through “natural infrastructure,” which create undisturbed habitat for birds and other wildlife, save taxpayer dollars, and safeguard communities from the effects of climate change.
Coastal Stewardship: Recruiting leaders and volunteers who are dedicated to reducing the threats posed to beach-nesting birds through advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation.
Gulf Restoration: Engaging communities to ensure a healthy and vibrant future for the birds, other wildlife, and Gulf communities in the aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.
Marine Conservation: Defending and supporting policies that protect seabird prey, and working to restore, protect, and create new seabird sanctuaries and marine protected areas.
Address and reverse the drastic global decline of marine and coastal birds
Forge a national community of advocates based on person-to-person relationships, shared values, and commitment to the protection of birds
Defend and advance policies that protect marine and coastal birds, their prey, and habitat
Warmer, more acidic ocean waters are driving forage fish, the main source of prey for seabirds and some shorebirds, further offshore to find colder, more productive waters. This causes birds to expend more energy to fly further from their nesting habitats to find suitable food for their chicks. Additionally, sea-level rise threatens to cause catastrophic habitat loss that will affect birds at all stages of their life-cycle and leave many birds unable to adapt. From 1990-2016, sea levels have risen by up to 8.3 inches, and scientists predict that by 2100, sea levels may continue to rise as much as 8 feet in many coastal areas if emissions continue unchecked. This will cause flooding that can destroy the low-lying habitats that many coastal birds need to raise their young and find food.
Plastic pollution, including discarded fishing line, is a big threat to seabirds. Oil spills are also a major source of pollution for coastal birds, including the BP oil disaster, which released 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, killing up to 1 million birds.
Healthy, undisturbed habitat, including mudflats and open beach, are critical for sea- and shorebirds. With populations increasing in coastal areas, coastal development rates are also increasing. Development activities like filling in wetlands to support urban, agricultural, and industrial uses destroys important habitat for birds and other wildlife. Scientists predict that one-fourth of all U.S. coastal lands will be developed by 2025.
Seabirds, marine mammals, and other marine wildlife prey on forage fish that are also sought after by the commercial and industrial fishing industries. Little fish like menhaden are then churned into vitamins, cosmetics, fertilizer, feed for livestock, and more. When forage fish populations drop below one-third of their maximum size, seabird reproduction declines.
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