Shorebirds of the Yellow Sea

Importance, threats and conservation status
Mark Barter
Wetlands International, 2002
ISBN 90 5882 009 2

7. Conservation of shorebirds and their habitats in the Yellow Sea

7.1 Introduction

Shorebird conservation status is best measured by the actual extent to which shorebirds and their habitats are being effectively protected by legislation, policies and plans, and the Protected Area system.

The widescale, and ongoing, reclamation of intertidal areas, excessive pollution levels and high levels of human disturbance, as described in Section 6, show very clearly that migratory shorebirds are already encountering serious survival problems in the Yellow Sea, and these difficulties can be expected to increase. Thus, their conservation status is currently poor and is likely to decline further.

Concern about the conservation status of migratory waterbirds and their habitats in the Asia-Pacific region has resulted in formal motions for action at the Ramsar Conferences of Parties in 1996 and 1999. Recommendation 6.4 calls for the establishment of a network of listed sites for migratory shorebirds along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway while Recommendation 7.3 calls for increased multilateral cooperation on the conservation of migratory waterbirds in the Asia-Pacific region. These are further strengthened by Resolution VII.21 which calls for enhanced conservation and wise use of intertidal wetlands.

Although the fate of migratory shorebirds is very closely linked to the availability of extensive and healthy wetlands, it is unrealistic to expect that these areas will be protected solely for the sake of shorebirds. However, the Yellow Sea wetlands supply very important economic and social benefits for local inhabitants and, thus, shorebird conservation is best achieved by the implementation of plans to maintain these benefits by protecting the region's biodiversity and encouraging sustainable use of wetland resources.

7.2 Conservation situation in China

7.2.1 Sources of information

The National Wetland Conservation Action Plan for China (NWCAPC 2000).

The PRC National Report for the Preliminary Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis of the Yellow Sea Large Marine Ecosystem (UNDP 2000a).

Annex A "Coastal Marine Environment and Living Resources" of the Coastal Resource Conservation and Environmental Management Project for the Bohai Sea (ADB 2000a).

Yellow Sea Ecoregion: Reconnaissance Report on Identification of Important Wetland and Marine Areas for Biodiversity Conservation. Vol. 1: China (Yuan et al. 2001).

7.2.2 Situation

The National Wetland Conservation Action Plan for China (NWCAPC 2000) lists the following major reasons for problems in wetland conservation and use:

  1. Wetland nature reserves and their management
    • area of protected wetlands is too small;
    • inadequate coverage of different habitat types;
    • poor management, insufficient funds and equipment;
    • conservation measures, including bans on hunting, fishing and logging, are insufficient.
  2. Legal system
    • no specific laws or regulations concerning wetland conservation and wise use;
    • although there are a few provisions for wetlands scattered within many laws and regulations, staff and resources for law enforcement are insufficient.
  3. Coordination of wetland management
    • although wetland conservation and use are relevant to many sectors, no satisfactory coordination system exists;
    • due to conflicts between the objectives and interests of the different sectors, wetlands cannot be managed in a scientific manner.
  4. Monitoring systems
    • monitoring of changes in wetland ecology and biodiversity is inadequate;
    • incompatibility of methodologies between sectors and lack of information sharing.
  5. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
    • no effective EIA has been made on wetlands in China because of the lack of a unified and scientifically-based wetland assessment system.
  6. Basic research
    • no systematic and in-depth wetland research has been undertaken;
    • very limited number of qualified professionals.
  7. Funding constraints
    • shortage of funds is a major limitation to wetland conservation and management;
    • no funds earmarked for wetland research, training and monitoring, reserve improvement and law enforcement.
  8. Awareness and education about wetland conservation
    • Chinese society has a limited knowledge of the value and importance of wetlands;
    • rate of education and dissemination of information about wetlands lags far behind the level required to cope with rapid economic development and the need to protect wetland resources.

The Action Plan specifies the following priorities to address the problems faced in achieving wetland conservation in China:

  • create or improve legislation to protect wetlands;
  • set up a co-ordination mechanism for wetland management;
  • reduce the speed of wetland degradation through integrated management and use;
  • conserve wetland wildlife resources by enhancing the establishment and management of nature reserves;
  • undertake public awareness and education programmes, and training of human resources;
  • conduct surveys and produce inventories to assist in monitoring wetland resources;
  • promote the sustainable use of wetland resources;
  • strengthen research on wetlands;
  • conduct specific activities for wetland conservation; and
  • enhance international co-operation.

Priority projects listed in The Action Plan, that are specifically relevant to intertidal areas in the Yellow Sea, are:

  1. Waterbird Conservation Initiatives in China (Project No. 10);
  2. The Establishment of Wetland Conservation Demonstration Projects on Inter-tidal and Estuarine Areas (Project No. 17);
  3. The Conservation and Wise Use of Coastal Wetlands Bordering the Bohai Sea (Project No. 19);
  4. The Conservation of Wetland Biodiversity and Sustainable Utilisation of Resources in the Liaohe River Delta (Project No. 22).
  5. The Sustainable Development of Wetland Ecosystems in the Yellow River Delta (Project No. 23);
  6. A Demonstration of Wetland Conservation in Oil Fields (Project No. 32);
  7. A Demonstration of Conservation and Development of an Ecosystem for Migratory Waterbirds and Wetlands at Dongtan, Chongming Island, Shanghai Municipality (Project No. 33)

China is currently involved in two major projects designed to improve biodiversity conservation in the Yellow Sea region.

The first project (UNDP 2000e), being carried out in conjunction with South Korea and partly funded by UNDP, has the objective of achieving "Ecosystem-based, environmentally-sustainable management and use of the Yellow Sea Large Marine Ecosystem and its watershed by reducing development stress and promoting sustainable exploitation of the ecosystem of a densely populated, heavily urbanized, and industrialized semi-enclosed shelf sea."

The second project (ADB 2000b), partly funded by the Asian Development Bank, has the aim of assisting the formulation of a Bohai Sea Coastal Resources Management Action Plan for the future management of the Sea's coastal and marine resources.

A further project (UNDP 1998) has the aim of removing barriers to effective conservation of wetland biodiversity (e.g. lack of integration of biodiversity conservation into development planning, no institutions for multi-sectoral wetland management, limited awareness of wetland values and functions at all levels, lack of technical capacity) at four demonstration sites, including Yancheng NNR in the Yellow Sea.

China is a signatory to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar), the Convention on Biodiversity Conservation and the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities. It has bilateral agreements with Japan, USA and Australia for the protection of migratory birds.

At May 2002, China had seven sites in the East Asian-Australasian Shorebird Site Network, five of these on the Yellow Sea coastline.

Information on Chinese coastal Protected Areas is given in Table 8, with their locations being shown in Figure 7.

7.3 Conservation situation in North Korea

7.3.1 Sources of information

Coastal Biodiversity Management of DPR Korea's West Sea (UNDP 2000c).

7.3.2 Situation

The UNDP document Coastal Biodiversity Management of DPR Korea's West Sea (UNDP 2000c) states that despite the existence of environmental legislation, a National Biodiversity and Action Plan, and an extensive reserve system covering nearly 20% of the country, "the coastal wetlands of the Gulf of West Korea and the biodiversity they support continue to be lost." The broad goal of the UNDP project is to achieve planned and sustainable development of the coast of the Gulf of West Korea, with a focus on globally significant biodiversity, human health and quality of life, thus securing a balance between protection of natural resources and environmentally-sound development.

The root causes of habitat and species loss have been identified as being primarily due to North Korea's low technical capacity and it's single sector approach to land use planning. Specific problems are:

  1. increasing competition for land and water between different sectors;
  2. increasing pollution levels from agriculture and industry;
  3. lack of an effective Environmental Impact Assessment mechanism for proposed land developments;
  4. low management capacity within the protected area system;
  5. general lack of environmental information and awareness at all levels of society.

The project, which has yet to be implemented, has four important objectives:

  1. a planning process for wetlands management which is effective at national and local levels;
  2. public awareness of natural resources and biodiversity values achieved through increased participation in Protected Area management;
  3. implementation of an Integrated Coastal Area Management Plan at a coastal wetland to demonstrate biodiversity conservation with sustainable development; and
  4. improved management practices in agriculture and other sectors with potential environmental impacts.

North Korea is a signatory to the Convention on Biodiversity Conservation. It has a bilateral agreement with Russia for the protection of migratory birds.

Information on North Korean coastal reserves is given in Table 8, with their locations being shown in Figure 7.

7.4 Conservation situation in South Korea

7.4.1 Sources of information

Environmental Protection in Korea 1997 (Anon 98a).

National Biodiversity Strategy 1997 (Anon 1998b).

Conservation of Globally Significant Wetlands in the Republic of Korea. (UNDP 2000d).

Yellow Sea Ecoregion: Reconnaissance Report on Identification of Important Wetland and Marine Areas for Biodiversity Conservation. Vol. 2: South Korea (Moores et al. 2001).

7.4.2 Situation

The National Biodiversity Strategy (Anon 1998b) states that although the intertidal region located on the west coast is recognized as being one of the top five in the world its biological diversity is being threatened by over-harvesting of marine biological resources, frequent outbreaks of red tides, oil spills, and pollution. In order to tackle these problems, the strategy encourages:

  1. increased research and survey work in order to better manage biological resources and natural environments;
  2. accelerating the designation of major natural tidal flats as protected areas;
  3. increasing public awareness of the ecological importance of tidal flats;
  4. restoring degraded coastlines and tidal flats; and
  5. compensating for reclaimed wetland areas with artificial wetlands.

With respect to sustainable use of intertidal resources, the Strategy promotes, inter alia, the following actions:

  1. establishment of an integrated management system for coastal areas;
  2. development of a long-term plan for sustainable use of coastal areas;
  3. reinforcing management by strengthening environmental impact assessment procedures;
  4. reassessment of the economic and environmental values of tidal flats and marine ecosystems;
  5. conducting research into the causes of red tides.

South Korea is currently involved in two major projects designed to improve biodiversity conservation in the Yellow Sea region. The first is the joint project with China (UNDP 2000e; see Section 7.2.2).

The second project (UNDP 2000d), partly funded by UNDP, has the aim of conserving globally significant wetlands and their biodiversity in South Korea. It is stated that "like other developing countries, Korea has many conflicts between conservation efforts and development pressures, which are mainly caused by the ignorance of the value of wetlands and by demands on land use ... Presently, making policies on development is done based on poor data, or no data at all, regarding the value of wetlands, leading to many cases of unnecessary wetland destruction. The identification and assessment of wetlands resources are urgently needed for management and conservation. In addition, global values need to be identified so measures can be taken to mitigate current and future threats." The essential elements of the project are:

  1. collection of data on biodiversity and socio-economic conditions of local communities;
  2. ensuring conservation, restoration and effective management of wetland ecosystems through development and implementation of national and regional management plans;
  3. undertaking public awareness campaigns to facilitate the implementation of wetland management plans;
  4. revising and strengthening environmental laws and institutional mechanisms to enhance biodiversity conservation;
  5. ensuring effective implementation of management plans through institutional coordination.

South Korea is a signatory to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar), the Convention on Biodiversity Conservation and the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities. It has a bilateral agreement with Russia for the protection of migratory birds. South Korea also has a memorandum of understanding with China and conducts informal discussions with Japan on protection of migratory birds.

Information on the South Korean coastal reserve is given in Table 8, with its location being shown in Figure 7.